The automotive aftermarket has been through a number of evolutions. That means the growing rate of electric vehicles is just another one of those moments, a panel of experts recently observed.
This is an exciting time for the industry, noted Kevin Herron, president and chief operating officer of the U.S. automotive parts group at Genuine Parts Co. But it will also be the industry’s greatest challenge.
“I think you have to be excited about the evolution of our industry, right? We’ve all seen that industry evolve. This will be the biggest change, there’s no doubt about it,” he said during the Buyer’s Panel keynote session at AAPEX 2021 in Las Vegas.
The industry, he noted, was effectively written off in the carburetor, points and condensers and other eras.
“But this is a bigger change. And it’s the evolution of the aftermarket. And I think we need to embrace it. Will categories change? Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it,” Herron said.
That said, new categories will be added to the marketplace. Technician training will be immensely important as well, he continued.
“And probably the biggest opportunity for us going forward. But you really have to be excited. This industry is resilient. It’s made its way through many, many changes over decades. And I think the next 20-30 years can be more exciting,” Herron said. “It will absolutely look different. But there’s still going to be a consumer driving a vehicle. And they’re still going to be an aftermarket 20, 30, 40 years from now.”
Still, electric vehicles are a threat to the aftermarket, noted Sue Godschalk, president of Federated Auto Parts.
“I think that the original equipment automakers are going to program those vehicles to entice the consumer to take that vehicle back to the OEM for repair. That’s just a fact,” he said on the panel.
“It will absolutely look different. But there’s still going to be a consumer driving a vehicle. And they’re still going to be an aftermarket 20, 30, 40 years from now.”
Aftermarket shops will lose out on those regular visits, like oil changes. But battery maintenance will be a new category for shops to work with clients on. Shocks may be another area that may get more attention, Godschalk noted.
“It’s going to be a challenge and we need to be prepared for that challenge,” she said.
And these new challenges mean the aftermarket needs to ensure they have the technicians to handle the new technology.
“We also need to make sure … that we have the technicians that are trained to repair those vehicles,” Godschalk said. “We need to make sure that we can get the equipment for those technicians to repair these vehicles. So we need to be very, very proactive and make sure that we still have the opportunity to work on these vehicles.”
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