Dealerships are struggling to fill open positions as sales remain brisk and long-time employees retire, according to a study by Automotive Retailing Today (ART).

The study indicates nearly 105,000 job openings exist at the nation's 21,600 dealerships. Sales departments lead the way with 42,198 vacant positions, and service jobs are next with 37,329 jobs to fill. Thousands of management and administrative openings also exist.

“America's franchised auto dealers are hanging out the help-wanted sign all across the country,” says Florida dealer Alan Starling, chairman of ART.

Those jobs are “intellectually challenging, with opportunity for advancement,” he says. “Pay and demand for these positions are high, and these are jobs that cannot be outsourced to other countries.”

The South Atlantic region has the most vacancies, at 24,647, the study say.

The Midwest and Pacific regions each have approximately 15,500 openings. The Southwest states show nearly 14,600 vacancies.

ART, a coalition of major automobile manufacturers and dealer organizations, in 2001 began studying the public perception of dealership careers and found parents and students unaware of available opportunities and their benefits.

“The shortage of employees is due to sales growth and retiree replacement,” Starling says. “There also have been misperceptions about the dealership work environment.”

“Dealerships have become high-tech facilities requiring highly skilled staff and needing top-notch employees with computer and technical skills. Today's new vehicles are very sophisticated and so are our customers. Internet savvy consumers do research before visiting the dealership and demand first-class service and attention.”

ART wants to help dealers fill the open positions and is promoting the benefits of working in a dealership, along with offering job and training information in both English and Spanish on a newly launched website: www.autocareers.org.