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John Sweigart on EV Adoption

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In the weeks leading up to its Summit this December in Nashville, ADAPT Automotive will talk with several keynote speakers and other presenters who will be at the conference about pressing topics and trends facing the industry.

John Sweigart of TRUE Collision Centers breaks down some of the biggest hurdles shops face when adjusting to handle EVs and hybrids. 

As told to Digital Multimedia Editor Noah Brown

EVs are just a better idea than ICEs for many different reasons. There's about 10 percent of the moving parts in an EV versus an internal combustion engine vehicle, so they're simpler with the lack of those moving parts, especially internal combustion engine components. They last longer, too.

They're very simple, which means they're very simple to build. There's just not that much to assemble and because of that they're actually simpler to work on.

ICEs are probably less than 20 percent efficient, when you look at all the energy used to move that vehicle forward, and electric vehicles are about 90 percent efficient. So the whole idea of the internal combustion engine vehicle is just filled with waste, just mountains of waste.

The truth is an electric vehicle requires very little maintenance. Tires, some fluids in the vehicle, there's coolant to cool the batteries, and there are some fluids in transaxles where they're used. Because of the regenerative braking, you can expect brakes to go a long way, maybe 100,000 miles.

And so if your business is a traditional vehicle maintenance, the truth of it is there's not going to be a lot of that available to you in the future. Does that mean you should think about other things? Maybe. But one thing that you should think about for sure is, if the truth is that they require less maintenance, then you should be thinking about “how do I reduce my costs?”

Beyond that, you could say that for the maintenance industry the opportunity probably lies in commercial vehicles.

It seems like, in addition to reducing your costs, removing the specialization of your shops instead of just being a quick lube or a quick oil shop, or just a collision shop, being able to handle multiple types of service and really becoming a one-stop shop for your customers.

The average age of a vehicle on the road now is maybe between 11 and 13 years old or something like that. You’ve got those vehicles for a while, you can continue to drive those and fix those vehicles. So now, if half the vehicles in eight years or eight-and-a-half years have to be EVs, then it’s feasible to think 15 years later there's not many internal combustion engine vehicles on the road to do the work.All of that is to say you probably should get going now, or at least have some sort of exit strategy. 

Start learning how to identify and remove waste, and start learning how to teach your people how to solve problems. You're going to have to be better than “them,” the OEMs, and so that means being cheaper than them and able to deliver a service better than they can. And the good news is, from my experience, the wrong people are in charge today at those big organizations. Service is almost an afterthought, and I get it. It's taken a mountain of work to get an electric vehicle to be mass-produced, so servicing them clearly was an afterthought. They don't have the right people in charge. A lot of these EV and AV companies are tech companies, and culturally that's a very different industry. 

In my experience with those companies, they hire smart, capable people, throw them in a room and hope good things happen. But there's very little direction. There's very little clarity on what the target is or how to get there. Just some basic common-sense things 

In our industry. We're clever people. We know how to fix things. That's an advantage that the tech orgs don't have today. And, just to be frank, there's not a lot of common sense at those organizations when it comes to this stuff. There's an advantage right now, there's an opportunity there to learn how to do it better than they can. The result of taking that opportunity is that you're just better than them. You can do it faster than they can. You can do it cheaper than they can. You can do it better than they can. If you can start first and you're in a mode of continuous improvement, then they can never catch you. In fact, the gap between you and them always gets wider.

By teaching people, teaching and empowering people, how to find and remove waste on your own, that I believe is the key.

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