Electric vehicles and the future of the aftermarket

April 21, 2022

It can be argued that the automotive aftermarket is, at its core, a green industry. If we take the basic principles of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” our industry holds its own. Proper maintenance keeps vehicles running more smoothly, which increases fuel efficiency and decreases emissions. In short, a well-maintained car pollutes less, so it’s better for the environment.

But as the world moves toward a zero-emissions future, our industry will need to pivot. The federal government has mandated that by 2035, all new cars and passenger trucks sold in Canada must be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). Battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs) will play a large part in reaching that goal. But what impacts will this have on the automotive aftermarket industry?

Electric vehicles – here and now

Saying that EVs are the future ignores the fact that some are already present. EVs made up 5.6% of vehicles registered in Canada in 2021 – up from 3.8% the previous year. As Canadian drivers look at the day to day costs of filling their tank, the recent increase in fuel costs may drive this growth even higher in 2022.

As we start seeing more EVs on the road, we should equally see more EVs in our shops; or at least that is what we would expect.

But as it stands, many EV owners are limited to taking their vehicles to dealerships for maintenance and repair. With access to proprietary technology and training, dealerships have a distinct advantage. It’s an advantage that automakers are unlikely to give up, seeing as maintenance trips to a dealership can be around 45% more expensive than going to an independent garage.

Challenges and opportunities

For the aftermarket to build on its history of environmental stewardship and position ourselves to successfully transition to a future where EVs dominate the market, we need to recognize and address the challenges faced by our industry.

Many of these challenges, however, are not specific to the transition to EVs but factor into the conversation about electric vehicles and the aftermarket industry. Two of the most important challenges are the skills training and the right to repair, which are pillars of AIA Canada’s advocacy efforts.

Skills training for EVs

It’s no secret that the aftermarket faces a shortage of trained technicians. For that reason, we’ve been actively engaged with governments at the federal and provincial levels, highlighting the need for investment in the skills training and workforce development, particularly when it comes to new technologies like electric vehicles.

We’re also working directly with educators to develop and deliver training that will upskill automotive tradespeople in EV maintenance and repair.

For shops in the collision sector, I-CAR Canada offers courses in EV damage assessment and general shop safety when dealing with electric vehicles.

EVs and the right to repair

Even with a well-trained workforce, without a legislated right to repair, EV owners may be at the mercy of car manufacturers intent on maintaining their monopoly on access to parts and the vehicle data essential to the diagnostic process. The ability of the aftermarket to access data in a fair and timely manner is vital, and it’s something that AIA Canada has been fighting for.

The recent automotive right-to-repair bill tabled in the House of Commons by MP Brian Masse is a positive step in the right direction. That being said, there is bound to be opposition to this bill – we’ve seen it before.

But we know that the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports the right to repair. Equally important, Canadians also support the adoption of electric vehicles, with over 70% considering an EV purchase.

Moving forward

The public’s support for the right to repair and the adoption of EVs go hand in hand. Being able to choose where to get an EV serviced requires that there be an alternative to dealerships – an alternative with skilled staff and access to the necessary tools and data.

The move towards a zero-emission future, at least when it comes to vehicles, is one that the majority of Canadians stand behind. But the only way we will achieve that goal by 2035 is if policy makers understand that the aftermarket plays a vital role – a role Canadians want us to play.

Your voice can make the difference. By talking to your MP about the importance of the right to repair, the value it brings to Canadians, and the role the aftermarket plays in reaching a zero-emission future, you can help make sure our industry remains strong. Contact Alana Baker, Senior Director of Government Relations to find out how to engage directly with the decision makers that represent your community.


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