Shifting Gears: Increasing Diversity in the Service Bay

For automotive service technician Tiara Richardson, solving problems and fixing cars is its own reward.  

“Just fixing cars is my reward for me. That’s what I want to do. Every time that I fix a car and it leaves here, that’s my reward,” Richardson said in her NADA video.

The 31-year-old is part of the service center team at Fitzgerald’s Gaithersburg Hyundai in Maryland. She started her automotive career 13 years ago as an express technician, doing oil changes and general maintenance, but Richardson said she “wanted a greater challenge so I started training as a technician.”

Soon Richardson had her certifications and was ready to get her on-the-job training in repair, diagnostics and maintenance with the service team at Fitzgerald’s Gaithersburg Hyundai. “Everyone here is a team system so if you’re stuck or have a question, the person next to you is willing to help you to figure out the issue,” Richardson said.

A combination of computer training and in-person classes help the service techs stay up to date on their skills and their all-important certifications, Richardson explained. “We have to renew every couple of years. The more certifications you have, pretty much the more money you’ll make…the bigger the jobs, the more you’ll get paid for it.”

More Pathways for Women in Automotive

Women service technicians are still a rarity in the service bay. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, just over 1 percent of the approximately 317,000 service technicians employed at new-car dealerships are women. “My experience is either you’re the only female or there’s one or two females in the shop,” Richardson said.

That’s not the case at Fitzgerald Auto Malls, a family of auto dealerships that encompasses 20 dealerships across Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida that sell 25 different brands of cars and trucks.

The Maryland institution employs more than 1,500 people and has a long history of supporting and employing women in the automotive industry. “In 1966 when my brother Jack opened the first Fitzgerald dealership he did something very smart, he hired me,” said Fitzgerald Auto Malls Vice President Dottie Fitzgerald. “Today’s dealerships have more pathways for women than they ever have. If you like people and taking care of customers, this is a great business full of opportunity.”

Fitzgerald’s Gaithersburg Hyundai, where Richardson works, is part of that auto group and has several female service technicians working there, including Concepcion Motta. “I do a little bit of everything. My primary job is doing all the PDIs and doing inspections on the new cars,” the 21-year-old said.

At Fitzgerald Volkswagen in Annapolis, 28-year-old technician Shana Galloway said her affinity for cars set a clear path for her career transition after serving in the military. “I’ve always had a passion for cars and I knew once I got out of the military that I definitely wanted to go to school to try and learn the basics,” Galloway said.

A passion for cars is also what led Richardson down her career path as well. “I’ve liked cars since I was little and it’s the only thing I was ever good at,” she said. Richardson also likes the problem-solving aspect to the job. “A lot of the job is problem solving and narrowing it down to that one specific problem. You have to go through every system to figure out which one is not functioning,” Richardson noted.

She also recognizes just how important the job is and the need to stay up-to-date on the latest repair and diagnostic technology. “The importance of knowing what you’re doing is because sometimes someone’s life may depend on it,” Richardson said.