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An electric shock for garages?

To cater for the increasing number of electric cars, garages are having to deal with new types of demand. They need to build up their expertise and invest in innovative analysis technology. Not only do they face increasing costs, but they are also confronted with the prospect of lower revenues because electric vehicles do not require as much maintenance. So what impact will electromobility actually have on garages?

One million electric vehicles will be on Germany's roads in 2022 if the latest predictions of the National Platform for Electromobility are to be believed. The Federal Government's aim is to have seven to ten million registered electric vehicles on the road by 2030. Current figures suggest that this trend is well underway. In 2020, the number of newly registered electric cars on the road tripled according to Federal Motor Transport Authority figures: boosted by state subsidies and new models, 194,000 purely battery-driven cars were registered, accounting for seven per cent of all new car registrations. In the first half of 2021, there were already 149,000 new purely battery-driven cars and 164,000 plug-in hybrids.

These new cars need very little doing to them at the moment, but car owners will soon be asking garages to carry out repairs and routine checks. But opinions are divided on this point. ‘I see a clear change coming our way,’ says Jeffrey Kilian, Chair of the Federal Trade Group of Independent Garages, part of the Central Association of the German Motor Vehicle Industry (ZDK). And the industry needs to thoroughly prepare for this change. ‘But there are still many garages resisting this change or finding it overwhelming’, says Kilian, who owns the independent garage Auto Kilian (formerly Schäfer & Schmidt) and employs eight members of staff. Many still need to venture beyond their comfort zone, build up their expertise, acquire new technology and equipment and improve their networking.

The most important thing? To build up expertise

Jeffrey Kilian, Chair of the Federal Trade Group of Independent Garages, part of the ZDK
Jeffrey Kilian, Chair of the Federal Trade Group of Independent Garages, part of the ZDK, views the future with optimism (photo: ZDK)

To support garages with their transition, the ZDK and its German Motor Vehicle Industry Academy (TAK) offers numerous training courses for garage staff. There are three professional qualification levels for working on vehicles with high-voltage systems: Level 1S allows car mechanics to carry out general work on the vehicle that does not involve the high-voltage system. 2S means they can work on an electric car, but not undertake live working, and the 3S level gives them the competency to carry out repairs while live working. ‘Our car mechanic trainees already have the 2S qualification under their belt when they complete their overall training’, says Kilian. Various industry players and associations offer additional training courses and portals, such as the Future Garage 4.0, the garage portal Repxpert from Schaeffler and the mobile telematics and communication solution vjumi. The diagnostics technology and software that garages use every day are also becoming smarter and better networked.

A drop in sales due to e-mobility?

Martin Dillinger
Martin Dillinger from TÜV Rhineland calls on garages to examine the opportunities offered by electromobility (photo: TÜV Rhineland)

However, the subdued mood is not just down to uncertainty and feeling overwhelmed. Garages are primarily concerned about loss of sales as most studies assume that the increasing number of electric cars will push down revenue in the automotive aftermarket and garage business. And the reason behind this assumption? Purely battery-driven vehicles have fewer parts subject to wear and tear than conventional vehicles with a combustion engine and therefore need less maintenance. Experts also estimate that wear and tear on brake pads and discs will reduce by about a third. ‘Currently a third of the total turnover from services is generated solely by the drive train', says Martin Dillinger, an expert in alternative drives, who works in the Future Mobility Team of TÜV Rhineland. On average, sales achieved on a car with conventional drive train is around 790 euros a year. With an electric car, this figure is reduced to just 540 euros. ‘The only place where we might see an increase in sales is with the cooling system for drive batteries and drive units in electric cars as well as the tyre business,’ says Dillinger.

In extreme cases, pure electromobility would therefore reduce the need for repairs, maintenance and replacement parts by up to 76 per cent compared to conventional cars. The international consulting firm Bain & Company also estimates that service sales per car will decline over the next few years because of electromobility: by 2035, annual losses will be 5.5 per cent.

However, Jeffrey Kilian of the ZDK has a more optimistic outlook on the future: ‘We have fewer wear parts on electric vehicles, but you can’t make generalisations.’ For some car manufacturers, particularly those in the commercial vehicle sector, he thinks that maintenance will actually become more extensive because more things need to be checked on the electric technology. And he estimates that maintenance of plug-in hybrids will be only minimally different compared to combustion engines as the hybrid system is technologically more complex. ‘It is important to recognise opportunities and potentials now.’

New business models and job opportunities

The good news for the industry is that the revolution is taking place gradually. Classic business with combustion engines will remain as it is for the time being. Experts estimate that around 1.5 billion cars will be on the road globally in 2035. Most of these will be equipped with a classic drive train. ‘These vehicles will still need servicing at short intervals, air filters and oil filters changing, timing and V-belts etc. Motor companies however should not count on a slow transition – that would be negligent given the dynamics of the transformation’, says Dillinger. Rather, garages should use the transitional period now to examine new business models and seize the associated employment opportunities. According to a study recently carried out by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Agora Verkehrswende in 2021, the number of jobs in the automotive segment will remain at a constant level overall until 2030. But with electrification will come significant changes to professional fields and adjustments to jobs within all industry branches involved.

As a result, there are plenty of new prospects, not least because electromobility is also so closely intertwined with new materials and composites. If automotive companies can gain expertise in this area, they might be able to tap into new sectors. Another often underestimated aspect is the correct disposal of electric vehicles, particularly batteries. There are various recycling and utilisation concepts for batteries, such as using them as buffer storage and a source of energy in a house basement. This could also lead to new business models for garages. So the industry should view the situation with a great deal more optimism, or as Jeffrey Kilian says: ‘The electric car also has four black, round tyres and the electric engine is still an engine, albeit one that simply works differently.’

 

Werner Arpogaus, CEO TEXA Deutschland
Werner Arpogaus, CEO TEXA Deutschland

‘Mobility is being revolutionised. Garages will be forced to get to grips with the issue of e-mobility intensively and for the long term, as well as ensure their staff are adequately qualified and that they can provide up-to-date multi-brand diagnostics. No independent garage will be able to afford to send customers with electric cars to the competition in future. TEXA is a specialist and pioneer in the diagnostics industry and with its IDC5 multi-brand diagnostics software, it supports customers with an intuitive, smart tool that guides them through the diagnostics. The software is constantly being improved and is currently updated monthly. In the future, it will be updated weekly, enabling us to guarantee one of the best coverages of all models on the market.’

Stefan Tolle, President & General Manager Automotive Aftermarket MANN+HUMMEL
Stefan Tolle, President & General Manager Automotive Aftermarket MANN+HUMMEL

‘For the past 80 years, MANN+HUMMEL has shaped the future of mobility together with our customers. Whether previously with combustion engines or in the future with batteries, fuel cells or synthetic fuels: our filtration solutions are an important step to delivering cleaner mobility. We are not just partners to vehicle manufacturers, but also garages and retailers. We share our knowledge and expertise both online and offline. We have our own e-mobility online shop and we recently received an award for our online training. We acquire partners in the garage sector from our own club. In the Future Workshop 4.0 offered by the Institute for the Automotive Industry, MANN+HUMMEL is the contractual partner that exclusively highlights the potential of filtration to customers in the aftermarket.'

Thomas Aukamm, Hauptgeschäftsführer Zentralverband Karosserie- und Fahrzeugtechnik e.V.
Thomas Aukamm, CEO Zentralverband Karosserie- und Fahrzeugtechnik e.V.

‘Companies must start to invest in the correct expertise and equipment in good time in order to be able to repair electric vehicles. Having the right equipment on site that is needed to repair electric or hybrid vehicles comprises, for example, personal protective equipment, quarantine space, fire protection, special tools, charging infrastructure and up-to-date repair information. Ensuring staff have the correct, required qualifications in accordance with the 1S to 3S specification as well as providing the training needed must also be included as part of the business operations.’

Philippe Colpron, Head of ZF Aftermarket ZF Friedrichshafen AG
Philippe Colpron, Head of ZF Aftermarket ZF Friedrichshafen AG

‘The global aftermarket is changing on many fronts and for the ZF aftermarket, one central focus is to support technicians and garages by providing access to information, training courses, online support and with diagnostics and software solutions. The basic principle is that classic after sales service requirements per vehicle will decline. But there is still a need to carry out services and garages must prepare their staff to take the necessary qualifications for working on high-voltage systems if they want to retain electric vehicle business. The demand for our training courses on electric vehicles is therefore also extremely high. We strive to provide the highest possible standard of technical knowledge to help garages make themselves even more competitive.’

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  • Alternative Drives