In Part 1, I discussed the problem of needing to adapt a business to EVs now instead of later, and discussed the case of gas stations and RVs. But, these two industries are far from the only ones that need to adapt to the emerging EV transition.
Another obvious industry that’s going to have to change is automobile sales. Oceanic tankers of ink have been spilled on how this industry will have to adjust to get their EV sales off the ground, but I want to cover the next phase. How will dealers need to change once EVs become the norm? Before we get to that point, car dealers will have had to already adjust in most of the ways people are talking about today. Once we’re there and the dealers (the surviving ones, at least) are selling many EVs, more things are going to need to change.
Probably the biggest thing they’ll need to realize is that the ongoing relationship with the customer needs to change to get repeat sales and referrals. If done right, they might even take business from competitors.
EV charging is one beachhead they’ll probably be able to utilize. Let’s face it: most people hate being at a car dealer, but if you stop by there sometimes to get a rapid charge, there’s a reason to be there. During the day, offering some amenities like a bathroom, soda and snack machines, and maybe free snacks would make it a pleasant place to go for EV drivers. Will they buy again right away? Obviously not, as most people can’t buy a new car every six months. But, establishing that relationship can pay off.
On the subject of charging, it’s also a good idea to try to have something available for people at night. In many small towns or parts of larger cities without much infrastructure, the car dealer might be the only option for fast charging. In my hometown, dealer charging is the only option for CCS and CHAdeMO cars for 50 miles, for example. But, having charging stations behind locked gates at night makes them unavailable for travelers or locals who need to get a charge at night.
The other thing that’s going to help improve repeat customers is education. People who buy their first EV and then feel like they’ve been left to climb that learning curve alone won’t have the same trust for a dealer that they’d have for people who gave them some guidance. Many people will be buying their first EV well into the 2030s, with some stragglers waiting for the following decades to make a change. That first experience, especially after the sale, needs to be stellar to retain them.
Rental Businesses Of All Kinds
A variety of rental businesses are involved in cars, as well as other electric vehicles. The obvious one is car rentals, and we’ve covered a number of rental deals between EV manufacturers and rental car companies. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are other companies that rent vehicles and vehicle-related goods and services.
I’ll get to the other rental companies in a bit, but I want to talk about the car rental companies first. Much of what I’ve explained above about dealers apply to them, too. Making charging available for rental cars traveling across continents makes a lot of sense, and gives these companies some control over the quality of the user experience. Educating EV renters, who may be renting an EV and driving one for the first time, need to be shown the ropes if it’s going to be a successful customer relationship long-term.
Other businesses who need to consider these things also include truck and van rental companies (ex. Ryder, U-Haul), their affiliates/partners, equipment rental companies, home improvement stores that rent trucks or deliver goods/services, and more. Education and charging is key, but each of these other businesses will need to tailor their operations to the unique challenges of their industry as EVs become part of the product/service offering or experience.
For example, national companies and networks like U-Haul have unique opportunities once they start going electric. Having a large, continent-spanning business footprint also gives opportunities to offer education, charging stations, and amenities to weary drivers taking their life’s possessions across vast distances. Right now, these companies are only concerned with the departure point and the destination, but change brings opportunity to deepen the customer relationship and even expand profits.
Independent Auto Repair Shops
Another industry that’s going to be affected by the transition will be independent auto repair shops and self-employed mechanics. Some of this will apply to dealer service departments as well.
This is somewhere that independent shops and mechanics have been before. Back in the Malaise Era, when cars were changing fast with all of the new emissions parts and eventually digital fuel injection, people who really knew their stuff suddenly didn’t. Nothing illustrates this better than a scene in the 1988 film The Milagro Beanfield War, when local mechanic Ruby Archuleta argues with another character about the inevitability of gentrification hurting the poor.
“My people have been here for 300 years!” she said, referring to a development that would probably push people like her out of the rural community.
“Great, stay,” her more informed friend said. “Your garage business will triple.”
“I don’t fix those kind of cars!” she says.
“Well…you better start.”
Some people will drop out of the repair industry as EVs come into play because they don’t want to learn to do new things, but many if not most will adapt and learn to fix EVs. The good news is that many aspects of cars, like brakes, suspensions, air conditioning, and 12-volt electrical systems will not change much. The things that will change are mostly in things like electric drive units and battery packs. Knowing enough to safely remove these parts and replace them will probably be good enough, as they can be sent away for repair or traded in for a remanufactured one.
The many businesses repairing hybrid battery packs shows us that I’m not being overly optimistic. From a Toyota dealer, a Prius battery can cost thousands, but a remanufactured part from independent mechanics can be put in a hybrid for under $1000 in many cases, and in your driveway. EV battery packs are bigger, but that doesn’t mean local shops won’t be able to replace them, even if they don’t rebuild them themselves.
Smart People Are Preparing For Change In 2023
Instead of thinking about some electric future, it’s best for people in all of these industries to realize that it’s happening now. It’s not a big part of these industries yet, but the people who plan for success now will be ahead of their competitors who try to figure it out once it starts overwhelming them. The smart thing to do is start planning and executing changes now, and get the drop on others.
Honestly, even if I made this a ten-part article series, I don’t think I could possibly cover every aspect of every industry that’s going to be affected. But, fortunately, we have many very intelligent and skilled readers in a variety of industries. I’d like to invite you all to share your thoughts from industries you’re familiar with in the comments, and also share your ideas on social media.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.
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