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Are electric cars a potential hazard for service/repair garages?

With recent reports suggesting that servicing costs of an electric car could be as much as 2/3rd’s lower than an equivalent petrol or diesel engine we take a look at whether this could be a potential problem for the average service/repair centre.

Most independent service centres rely on a local customer base and a fairly steady stream of work. A standard internal combustion engine has hundreds of mechanical parts any one of which could malfunction, fail or simply wear out at any given time. Add to that the need for regular oil and filter changes and it is easy to see why there is enough steady business for most service centres to thrive. Electric motors on the other hand are relatively simple, containing around only half a dozen moving parts. There is no requirement for oil or filter changes. Put simply, there isn’t a great deal of parts on an electric motor that can wear out and when they do it should be fairly simple to replace.

At present, petrol and diesel engines still dominate the market largely due to the relatively high cost of buying an electric car, the so called range anxiety and a sub standard nationwide network of charging points. Indeed, at this stage, electric cars are still mainly suitable for people with low to medium daily commutes, city drivers and those who simply have no requirement for travelling great distances. However, the technology is fast evolving and crucially becoming cheaper with better range. The infrastructure of charging points is growing and it will not be long before electric cars have overtaken petrol and diesel engines in the new car sales.

What does this mean for your business? Well, I don’t think many businesses could survive on having their income cut by 2/3rds so it is important that market trends are observed carefully. Of course, it will be many, many years before petrol and diesel engines are completely fazed out but as their market share starts to become less and less the competition for these customers will become fierce. Below we have outlined some ways to ensure you stay ahead of the curve:

1 – Become an expert on electric motors. This one is obvious but if you wish to stay in the game you must ensure you are trained and qualified to deal with the different types of issues faced by electric motors. At this stage it is fair to say most servicing of electric motors is undertaken by dealerships. The question is why? Most customers are more than happy to take their petrol/diesel cars to the local garage for their expertise, personal service and quite often lower pricing. You need to ensure customers feel as comfortable bringing their electric car to you. It is also important from a safety point of view with one source being quoted as stating that 2 technicians are killed each week in the USA whilst working on electric vehicles.

2 – Ensure you stay in touch with your customers. Good marketing is crucial for any business but ensuring you keep in contact with your customers will become more important than ever. Although electric motors require less engine servicing, they still require tyres, break pads and other general items. It is important that your retain your customers for these services also.

3 – Offer charging stations at your premises. This one is a bit of an investment but by having customers pay to charge their vehicle at your premises the costs can be recovered. It will also highlight you as experts in the electric motor field and will promote confidence to the consumer of your expertise.

4 – Retain your existing customers. As with any business, customer retention is key. Think of ways to keep your customers loyal. Offer promotions, loyalty schemes and other incentives to continue to place their business with you. Ensure that you continue to offer that personal service and competitive pricing.

5 – MOT’s – If you are not already doing so, ensure that you are an authorised MOT station. All cars over 3 years old (including electric vehicles) still require an annual MOT. By implementing our steps above you can be confident that electric car owners will also bring their car to you when it is due for an MOT.

Overall it will take a number of years before the effects of the electric car begin to bite but with ownership growing year on year it is important to stay ahead of the curve. Electric cars are going to become common place and with them comes a whole new approach to routine servicing and maintenance. The motor trade industry is robust and will no doubt cope with the shift but it never hurts to be a few steps ahead of the competition.

Do you agree?

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