Auto dealership service advisors - commission?

Welcome to the SDMB, Stu. Helpful post.

Welcome to the Dope.
thanks for the post. Very informative.

After years of worrying about finding a good mechanic-which I usually did eventually-I realized that I would be better served by finding a good service advisor. The shop is more expensive than average, but OTOH it is very convenient and always busier than average.

I just wanted to thank Stu for a great, detailed real-world answer.

Great information.

So what were my responses? Chopped liver?

Don’t feel bad. Chopped liver is delicious! Anyway, you’re always being helpful and accurate so we don’t feel the need to mention it as much. That dude’s new.


Good thread folks. I especially appreciate answers from Rick and StuandPotatoes. Reminds me of an experience I had some years ago.

I took my Chevy to the local Chevy dealer for some routine maintenance. Upon the routine inspection that was included with regular mantenance, I was told the ball joints needed replacing (the car was only three years old, but I had no clue what a “ball joint” was and how often it needed to be replaced). My wife said, “if they need doing, then they need doing,” and in the interests of domestic harmony, I authorized the work. Some hundreds of dollars later, I picked up the car–only to find that the brakes were wonky–the ABS was taking over every time I came to a stop. I complained to the dealer’s service department, only to be told that “well, that’s what happens when you do the ball joints.” So another few hundred dollars later, we had properly working brakes. At which point, we wised up and took the car to a local garage when it needed maintenance. Never had a problem with maintenance or service after that.

As an aside, a mechanic friend (who I met and got to know only after this incident, sadly) told me that Chevy ball joints don’t typically need to be replaced after three years–and I ran that car for the next nine years without the ball joints being a problem–and that while the brakes do need attending to during the ball joint procedure, their operation should be a part of the procedure. That is, the shop should not release the car after a ball joint procedure with wonky brakes that cost extra money to fix.

Thanks, Service Advisor! How much in unnecessary “fixes” did you cost me?

Not to say that all Chevy dealerships are like that; or indeed, all dealership service is like that. Not at all. But this thread indicates to me that some service advisors are more in it for the money than anything else. I just had the misfortune to encounter one such.

Sa pay depends greatly on where you work. I worked at one dealership where it was on what’s called a “bracket” with a draw.
How that worked was I had a draw of $1000 every 15 days and the draw was against my bonus. The bracket was my pay for my bonus. I would get x amount of dollars for my average labor per ro (repair order), my elr (effective labor rate. This is based on how much money in labor you bring in in the month vs. the hours you paid your technician.) the amount of ro’s I wrote. The productivity of “my team” of technicians, my csi score (customer satisfactory index.) and finally $0.50 per hour my team did and $1.00 per hour that I had to send to the other team( reason being the other team had the only diesel and transmission technicians). On this pay CWI all counted ( C= customer W= Warranty and I=internal). This was by far the worst pay plan I have seen and it was my very first Sa position I had held.

The current pay I am on is a commissions with bonus.
This plan is simple 5.5% of C minus discounts 3% of W and 1.5% on I and sublet.
You get paid x amount of dollars if you sell specific things such as tires or filters.
The bonus is based on several things you either get .5% 1% 1.5% or 2% of total C sales minus discounts depending on what your C labor sales minus discount meets.
You get x amount of dollars for hitting specific ELR rates maxes at $1000.00. You get c amount of dollars based on what rate labor average you hit maxing at $750.00. Spiffs for total tires sold and total batteries.
The downside to the bonus which makes about 1/3 of my pay is if your CSI score is not over 92% then you don’t get your bonus at all.
CSI is not only based on you but you are graded on the technicians the facility the sales department rental department amenities among other things. It is quite a feat to maintain a 92% because a customer can bring his car in for an oil change and then go to the sales department to look at cars, they upset him he grades them bad, but you are the only one that sold the customer anything therefore you are the only one affected by the score. This is a zero tolerance area and there is no discretion taken towards it. You either pass or fail.

That being said I make very good money for my age. A bad month is around 4,500. My best month to date is about 9,300. As one person already said its hard to compare sales pay to a sa. Our #1 sales person made around 150k last year, but she has been with the company 12years and is by appointment only. She has so much clientele that she doesn’t have to “walk the lot” or take Internet calls.

My pay is close to the max you can make as a sa. I consistently rank #1 out of our 8 dealerships and I have never finished under 3rd.

I have interviewed at other dealerships that offered a weekly pay with commission bonus as long as you maintain csi.

Almost all dealerships in the area I am in are 75-100% commission. That goes for sa technicians sales people f&i sales managers service managers part personnel parts managers service managers and general manangers. Only positions that are not numbers driven are accounting receptionists and porters. Even rentals is a salary with a commission pay built in. Even our express oil changers are commission based. They take total hours turned split by the percentage of hour you were clocked in. Then they have a monthly bonus based on spiffs for selling recommended things minus any things they had to charge off because of damaging it or having to get it cleaned.

I have been in the industry since I was 18 so 11years. I have worked my way up from detail to oil changer to tech to master tech to advisor to Asm ( which is a glorified advisor at the location I am currently at).

Very stressful long hours but very good pay if you are good and can handle it.

This probably the best thing to do. Yes you want a good mechanic, but the advisor is your defense for the things that aren’t needed. I refuse to sell dishonestly, and I feel that is part of why I do so good. I have had technicians tell me a vehicle needs a repair to fix the complaint yet when I ask if certain things that could cause the issue have been checked they say no let me check that and the suggested repair changes.

There is a proper way to discuss repairs. Primary concern is first then safety then break down then maintenance. They should be addresses in that order and disclosed in that way. It is stupid if a customer comes in with a check engine light and the advisor suggests a brake flush to fix it.

I have worked in independent shops and dealers. I choose to work at dealers because in my experience independent shops do not watch the over selling. Some I have quit because they promoted over selling and manipulation.

My current dealer has stringent rules on selling things like flushes before 60,000 miles due to the fact that most are not needed before then. There are exceptions like age and if there is a repair that requires flushing of the system ( such as a steering rack leaking fluid. Most warranties won’t cover a rack that has been installed unless you can show the system was flushed to verify there was no contamination or debris in the system).

Always try and see the same advisor. Build a rapport it makes it easier for the advisor to know what you want and meet that expectation as well as you know the advisor and the personality quirks as well as their experience and history in the field.

You wouldn’t go to the obgyn if you had a heart attack you would go to a cardiovascular specialist. Make sure you have an automotive expert and not a guy that was delivering pizza two weeks ago and doesn’t even know what an oil cap is.

Excellent post.
FYI I have had several SA that make more than you do by a fair margin. I think the best I’ve every personally had work for me was making $225,000-$250,000 a year.
These are not normal people. Just as an Olympic gold medalist is a normal person.
These guys can be writing up a customer, be on hold with an extended warranty company, be paging a tech on their cell phone, dispatching work and greeting a new customer all at the same time.
This is what it looks like to watch them.

Let me correct what I meant at “my” current dealership it is about maxed. We did have an advisor that had been with us almost since the dealer opened and their best year on the older pay scale before they diluted it was 150k and he consistently ranked in the top 50 in the current makes national rankings.

I know I still have a ways to go I have only been an advisor for 3 years everything else was in the shop.

With that being said Ive made my way in the the top 400 nationally and just under the top 100 of our district. ( they use a curving grading scale for this model based on penetration rates)

If you don’t mind my asking what make did your advisors work for. From what I understand from being in the field is the make of the vehicle can substantially affect the pay but location is even more imperative.

Volvo, Mercedes, and Hyundai are the car brands I was referring to.

To maximize earnings you need to pick the sweet spot between affluent clients, cars that break and a busy dealership.

The experience of buying my Hyundai was the best car buying experience I’ve ever had.

The experiences of having my car serviced at three different (sequential, as I gave up on each in turn after two or three trips) Hyundai dealerships in St. Louis are the worst service experiences I’ve ever had. Every one of them wanted to squeeze money out of me, starting with a car with 3000 miles on it.

They were, in fact, so bad that I have never been to a Hyundai service department since even though I’m still under warranty, and have ignored the recalls even though I’m in another state now. That’s how bad they were.

You know, Rick… I always find your posts about cars informative, but you do strike me as a bit defensive on this subject.

To wit:

Well, when did I say I did? This is GQ. I asked a specific question about the way service advisors get paid because…well, i didn’t know much about the subject.

:rolleyes: all you want.

Nommarune answered the question straightforward, from his experience, without judging anyone’s motives. I thanked him for a great answer.

I know it has been several months but I am more than happy to answer your question with regard to service advisors. Yes they do get paid on commission in almost every case. yes it is an industry wide thing, they get paid a percentage of what they sell and that usually ranges from 4%-8%. They are also completely responsible for everything from start to finish and are held accountable for everything and anything. I am a service advisor I do make an exceptional living. I do want to add that if you ever get a survey and can’t mark 100% on everything throw it in the trash because if it’s not 100% its a fail and we lose money. And yes I am talking about every question on the survey even if it asks how you liked the coffee and doughnuts. So unless you hate them and want their children to starve please throw it away or fill it out 100% and call the service manager with complaints.

A bit of an old thread, but I feel I can give even more useful information having worked at a high-end luxury line dealer, an extremely popular Japanese import dealer, and now in an aftermarket repair facility as a service writer/advisor.

I have never met or even heard of a service advisor position that was not at least partially based on commission. Make no mistake, we are there to get your money. We are also there to handle your problems and to keep you educated about your vehicle. We are NOT there to make you spend money on things you do not need.

Most of the time, we play the role of manager and babysitter as well. Techs are often immature and petty and customers can be all over the board.

The most typical p[ay plan I have come across is 40/40/20. 40 percent commission, 40 percent salary,20 percent customer satisfaction survey bonus. A big part that is often not mentioned is spiffs. Spiffs are specific to certain parts or brands or packages. Tires are good for this. One month, Michelin tires may be spiffed from the manufacturer themselves. Or Valvoline products. Or any number of other things. That can make up a nice chunk of change in a busy shop.

A good service advisor is going to tell you what is critical, what is good for the car in the long run and what to expect in the future WITHOUT selling you things you do not need. Your owners manual lays out factory maintenance. Keep in mind however that different areas of the country affect cars in different ways. Flushing out fluids in areas with extreme temperature variations and lots of moisture CAN help a car’s long term reliability by removing moisture that builds up.

All too often we see customers that do not maintain their cars come in upset that they have a major failure at, say, 80k miles. Or that refuse pads on one visit upset that the next time we see them we now quote them rotors too.

It’s a very difficult job and often requires 55-60 hours per week, one that allows almost ZERO room for ANY less than perfect customer surveys and doesnt even leave time for the advisor to take a leak because they are so busy.

Keep that in mind next time you talk to one, and if you do not trust what they say, get a 2nd opinion. You have to be able to trust the person you’re working with. If not, find a different facility. Most advisors I’ve worked beside are pretty honest.

Whaddya know? Me too. My favorite was the one (not to mention names) in south county, where they had recommended services grouped into “A” and “B” packages. So at, say, 60,000 miles you’d look at the owners manual and see that it called for 10 different maintenance items and the dealer would put half of them in package A, the other half in package B, and both packages puffed up with useless services like windshield wiper cleaning and seat belt rotation.

why do expensive cars break so much? I guess they figure those owners don’t care about repair costs? Just read about a BMW that needed 3 repairs in the first year .

As someone said, a sucker is born every minute. (it was not PT Barnum who said it)

(Living in a different country), this intrigues me. Why are SA’s paid a percentage? Do good SA’s get more work done in the same amount of time? Is it just a business model where all the staff are effectively part-owners, and are paid out of profit/loss? Or are SA’s selling the service?