Canadian automobile dealerships, by most any measure, are lucrative places to work.
Here’s how much the average Canadian dealership employee makes
First annual Automotive News Canada’s Retail Salary Survey finds compensation at all dealership levels handily exceeds overall average for Canadian workers
The study was conducted in the fall of 2022 by Research+Knowledge =Insight, an inde- pendent research company based in Toronto. It calculated the responses of 655 dealership employees on the audience lists of Automotive News Canada and survey sponsor Auto Careers Group. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The results of the 2023 Automotive News Canada Retail Salary Survey show that compensation at all dealership levels handily exceeds the overall average for Canadian workers, with pay in many positions outstripping earnings in the wider economy by two or even three times. The survey is based on 655 responses from staff, including managers and dealer principals, at dealerships of all sizes throughout Canada.
Across all automotive brands, experience levels and job titles, the average 2022 pretax compensation for Canadian dealership employees was $131,200. The tally includes all forms of pay, including salary, commissions and bonuses.
That figure is more than double the gross pay earned by most Canadians.
Economy-wide weekly figures compiled by Statistics Canada show that through September — the latest data available — employed Canadians earned about $1,150 per week, including overtime. That’s tracking toward a 2022 yearly income of about $60,500. In 2021, average income for employed Canadians totaled nearly $59,000, according to annualized weekly earnings data from Statistics Canada.
The potential for high compensation is one of the factors that allows auto retailers to attract talent, said Jordan Rees, CEO of the Kitchener, Ont.-based automotive recruitment company Auto Careers Group Inc.
“Anybody can come into the automotive industry and make that kind of money,” Rees said. “That’s a really positive aspect for the auto industry in attracting good people.”
He cautioned that not everyone working in the industry can expect to make the average, but high performers are able to climb up the retail ranks regardless of their educational backgrounds or work history.
“There aren’t a lot of hurdles to jump into the automotive industry,” Rees said. “On the sales side, depending on the province, we have some licensing requirements, but they’re minimal. There’s no education to go through. You can come right out of high school and start selling cars and still make it to that general manager level.”
ALL DO WELL, SOME DO BETTER
Of the 655 survey respondents, 29 per cent reported earning more than $150,000 in pretax income in 2022; 12 per cent of respondents grossed close to the overall average, earning between $125,000 and $149,999. The majority, however, earned less, with 59 per cent of respondents reporting less than $125,000 in total compensation in 2022.
A range of factors influence earnings at dealerships — including the automotive brand on the banner. The survey results show relatively consistent pay across most brands, but several standouts can be found at both the high and low ends of the spectrum.
The dealership department also signals earnings potential.
Survey respondents who identified themselves as managers earned an average of $161,900 in total compensation in 2022, compared with an average of $85,200 earned by those identifying themselves as employees.
Earnings differences between departments also exist. Compensation for managers in service departments, for instance, falls short of compensation for leadership roles in other parts of dealership operations.
Geography and scale also matter, with dealerships in larger markets that sell more vehicles and employ more people typically paying better than smaller operations.
A higher cost of living in large urban centres, however, provides a check on this higher compensation, Rees said.
“If we look at someone who is out east who is slightly lower in the pay scale, their cost of living is lower [than someone in Ontario],” he said.
For this reason, Rees said, he rarely sees candidates move between different parts of the country solely to secure greater compensation.
The survey results also show a significant gender divide in compensation. Male staff earned an average of $138,300 in 2022, compared to an average of $102,400 reported by female respondents. Of note, 31 per cent of female respondents were in administrative roles compared with men at four per cent. Additionally, only four per cent of women identified as dealer executives versus 18 per cent of men.