Can the Repair Industry Wait on EV Prep?

Aug. 18, 2021
With promises of lower emissions and more EVs abundant from politicians and manufacturers, do shops need to be preparing now? A top automotive research executive weighs in.

Aug. 18, 2021—It seems as if every day another manufacturer is announcing new electric vehicle targets or emissions policies. New bills are being proposed and passed in local, state and national legislations regularly. 

That has left repair shop owners across the country wondering, “are we ready?” and “when do we need to worry about this, if at all?”

A new study published by IMR, a research firm specializing in the automotive industry, analyzed that exact topic. The study uncovered that 67 percent of repair shops service battery electric vehicles, although it makes up a very small, roughly three percent, part of their car count. The study also found just 27.5 percent of shops that service electric vehicles, whether hybrid or battery electric, have invested in specialized tools or equipment and 30 percent have invested in additional technician training. 

Now, 27.5 and 30 percent are far from a majority, but does that mean the industry is still unprepared? Bill Thompson, president of IMR, doesn’t think so. 

“You’re only unprepared if there’s an onslaught of EVs and you haven’t done the training,” Thompson said, “and the majority of vehicles that shops see are not electric vehicles.”

The study found shops located in the west had nearly double the percentage of business from EVs than shops in the midwest. Thompson said that difference is due almost entirely to California’s adoption of EVs. Still it made up, on average, just seven percent of a shop’s business that is located in the west. 

If everywhere was like California, those percentages would be troubling, but they aren’t, Thompson said. For that reason, he recommends that each shop look at their local community rather than the larger national numbers. If a shop is seeing an increase in their area, then it may benefit them to do more training and purchase more equipment. 

And shop owners should trust their gut, Thompson said. They’re the ones in the shop every day understanding if EV prevalence is growing in the area. 

With that being said, Thompson is adamant shops shouldn’t dismiss EVs entirely. EVs are coming, he said, there just isn’t a clear timetable on when.It was one of the things that most surprised Thompson about the results of the study. Roughly 39 percent of respondents said their business wouldn’t be impacted by EVs in the next two years. And of those respondents, nearly 70 percent of them said it wouldn’t impact them for 10 years or more. Just over 13 percent said it would never affect them. 

The results of the study overwhelmingly concluded that shops are seeing an increase in EV work. It’s not occupying a large percentage of the business, and likely won’t for several years, but ignoring it is not a good strategy, Thompson said. 

“Don’t take your eye off the ball. To do so is denying it’s going to happen,” Thompson said. 

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