In a previous post, we explored the auto industry’s changing climate toward electric cars and some of the questions arising from that shift. Here, we continue that discussion and focus on how industry professionals can continue to find opportunity within a developing aftermarket.
Seeing with New Eyes
There was an important lesson in the August issue of Keystone’s RPM. Don’t make the big mistake of viewing SUV and CUV buyers as two opposing groups because they have more in common than you’d think. The same can be said for internal-combustion powered and electric cars.
Does an EV have different maintenance needs? Obviously. But regardless of how the car moves, drivers are still taking them to the same places. That weekend excursion might be missing a trailer hitch and a dependable all-terrain tire upgrade. Those are needs that Drawtite or Pit Bull tires are happy to fulfill. Ferrying the kids back and forth from ballet to soccer practice requires clever cargo management. Thankfully, Thule and Yakima are up to the challenge. Vet trip? You’ll want some interior protection. No problem, as Weather Tech has it handled. And here’s a kicker—maybe one day electric cars will mainstream the drag strip competition, which will absolutely require personal modification for additional power boosters. And just think about all the great gadgets companies like Weego are going to pioneer when we no longer need to charge just our phone or tablet, but the whole car as well.
Where aftermarket retailers and restylers will really be able to shine is exactly where they always have—in offering what the automakers can’t. Hobbyists, backyard mechanics, amateur tinkers, frugal dads who refuse to pay full price for anything—these are all people to whom items like electric car conversion kits or DIY charging station would greatly attract.
After all, hasn’t it always been the same old tug and pull? The aftermarket fills in the gaps of the automakers, only to have the automakers eventually fit those innovations into expensive packages at point of sale. Then the aftermarket comes back and does it better and for less money. And so goes the tit-for-tat that we’ve become accustomed to and, honestly, that has collectively motivated and balanced the industry throughout its history.
Be the Optimist
The point is, the big guys can’t plug every hole in the boat. And that’s where the aftermarket comes in. We don’t actually know what effect a complete automotive paradigm shift will have on the very world it’s aiming to help. How are drivers expected to dispose of their old lithium ion batteries? What kind of special safety gear should an EV driver keep on hand in the event of a battery fire or malfunction? What’s going to happen to the city’s power grid when everyone gets home from work at 5 pm and plugs their car into the wall like an iPhone?
These might seem like pretty peculiar and even daunting hurdles to overcome. But from a different perspective they can quickly become opportunities for innovation and, ultimately, sales revenue. Imagine your shop selling battery disposal equipment, must-have portable safety kits with extinguishers, and protective face gear, or yet-to-be-invented car-charging power boosters.
Keep On, Keepin’ On
Do you think just because the oceans are rising people are going to stop buying up waterfront property? Never. Internal combustion might be ringing the death knell as far as everyday driving goes. But, as we always say, everything old eventually becomes new again. In the meantime, it will patiently wait in the background, disguising itself as “classic” or “novelty” until a future hipster of 2117 finds an old Toyota Corolla in his great great grandmother’s summer house and, disillusioned with the economy’s dependency on batteries, starts a campaign of #CombustorBust.
Until then, the automotive industry will keep doing what it’s always done. Building customer relations, solving problems, and actualizing decades-long car fantasies. That is, until self-driving cars take over…