Inside views on the jobs market
Car technician sees “short-time fever” at Texas dealership
by Eloah James
My husband, Jason, an employee at a Saturn dealership in Texas, says co-workers are experiencing “short-time fever.”
Jason has worked for Saturn and GM for nearly 15 years as a service technician. For the last 10, he’s worked at the Saturn of Austin dealership.
With a steady decline in repair work over the last year, GM’s looming bankruptcy is not a big surprise for our family. With Saturn’s demise coming two years earlier than we anticipated, and the announcement of 1,200 GM dealership closings, it looks like his job may be a lost cause altogether.
At my husband’s dealership, folks are not bringing in their cars for repairs as frequently. And when they do, the repair work is often under warranty, so Jason is paid less for his work. This means he may only get paid for two hours worth of work for an eight-hour job because most of the work is under warranty. That leaves a technician like Jason making $50 or less for a day’s work.
Unlike autoworkers in Detroit and at plants, service technicians at Jason’s work are not unionized. If the dealership closes, he won’t receive a severance package or other compensation; he’ll simply lose his job. He told me he thinks about doing something else “all the time.” He says he knows if he sticks it out until Saturn of Austin closes, he may have to rely on unemployment.
“GM used to have more money than anybody,” Jason told me. But now his income has dropped off sharply over the last six months. His current year-to-date salary is around one-third of what it should be.
We do see some reason for optimism, however. If Penske and Nissan-Renault bought out portions of Saturn, the new company could rebadge Nissans under the Saturn brand. It’s not ideal, but it could protect many Saturn jobs, including my husband’s, as Nissan would utilize existing Saturn dealerships.
Jason said this was the best news Saturn service technicians had this year. But with GM’s news that it’s shuttering dealerships, it may be too late.