Shops can do all they can to prepare to service electric vehicles in their facilities. They can have the space to do the work, the tools needed and all the safety considerations. But they may not have the technicians.
That’s an issue that’s going to grow as the labour gap deepens at the same time as vehicle electrification a recent panel observed.
“There are only so many technicians. We’re all fighting for technicians all the time,” noted Sarah Hindle, director of finance and insurance at Lithia Motors during the recent Canadian Black Book Talk Auto 2023 event near Toronto. “But if I’m a [current] technician, obviously EVs are not my specialty. I’m slowly learning those things. And ultimately, as a technician, I’m not an engineer. So when something goes really wrong with an EV, it’s not a question of a 20-year technician knowing how to fix an EV.”
They may need to call an engineer from the OE to address the issue, she added.
That’s on top of the usual challenges a shop will face in preparation for EV repair that will keep a shop owner’s mind busy.
“Obviously, you’re dealing with batteries — and it’s a drastically different environment,” Hindle said. “So you look at how a shop needs to look when we have EVs. You have to have extra space around the bays, you have to be able to quarantine a vehicle if they have a battery issue, which needs a 10-foot perimeter. I mean, there’s just a lot of factors.”
Still, she centred on the ability to quickly respond to issues and handle the problem for the consumer is a big challenge all around. The delay can quickly have them doubt their decision to electrify.
“The wait time from the OEMs to get somebody [who would be] a next-level expert can be excessive,” Hindle said.
“And depending on the brand, that’s a lot of downtime for a person in a car. And then when the alternative is to put them into a gas car, how much are you really building the faith in EVs? If I just bought my first EV and I bring it in for an issue and then it’s there for an extended period of time and now I’m driving and gas alternatives as my loaner, I feel like it really discredits the movement.”
Alan Bird, chairman and CEO of taq Automotive Intelligence, owns an EV. He pointed to over-the-air updates and how much of a time-saver those are.
“The first EV I had, all of a sudden, I got this note that I had to get this over-the-air update. And I was like, ‘Well, why? Why would I need that? Like, what’s wrong with it?’ Now, I love over-the-air updates,” he said on the same panel as Hindle. “Like, literally, I don’t know when the last time is I had to go in [to a repair centre] because they could do over-the-air updates. But that was me changing. It wasn’t a car change. It was just me getting comfortable with it.”