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Chesney: Shops Should Embrace Tech, Not Fear It

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NASHVILLE, TENN., Dec. 8, 2021—At a conference that kicked off with a keynote speech about how there is no room for fear in the automotive aftermarket, it seemed fitting that the closing keynote would echo that sentiment. 

Language surrounding the impending widespread adoption of electric vehicles, automated driving systems and other advanced technology seems to suggest the automotive landscape has started a seismic, irreversible shift. 

In a way, it has. In his closing comments, Repairify training executive and 50-year industry veteran Chris Chesney said shifts toward electrification and autonomous driving that are being taken now are setting the stage for long-term change.

But that long-term future isn’t going to affect the short-term bottom line all that much.

“Life is good, keep on doing what you’re doing,” Chesney told shop owners, “but get your act together because it’s coming.” 

Life is Good

It seems every decade or so there’s a new innovation or trend that industry stakeholders say will be the death of the aftermarket and will make independent shops obsolete. For the last several years, electric vehicles have been that trend. 

Chesney provided some statistics to put that opinion to the test.

Over the past two years, the aftermarket has proved resilient in the face of the pandemic, seeing an 11 percent growth in total sales this year. New vehicle sales have also been steadily increasing year over year.

EVs are seeing an increase in market share with new registrations up to 255,000 last year, and around 1 million are expected to be on the road nationwide at the end of next year. 

While that may seem like a substantial number, and it is significantly higher than it was even two years ago, it’s only a small fraction of the near 300 million vehicles registered in the U.S.

Even in 2030, which has become the ‘token year’ that politicians and other industry onlookers have set as an EV adoption goal, the number of vehicles with some form of electrified drivetrain on the road will be around 25 million, or just over 8 percent of the total number of vehicles that will be on the roads at that time.

Those EVs will still need services for tires, suspension, brakes, ADAS calibrations and other services and can provide a steady revenue stream, but Chesney says at the end of the day, ICE vehicles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon and will continue to be a viable revenue stream for the coming decades. 

Get Your Act Together

That being said, Chesney said that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to ignore electric vehicles or other new technologies altogether.

“If you’re getting hybrids or EVs in your shop today, you’ll be getting twice as much in 2030,” he said.

On a slide in his presentation, Chesney quoted the adage “things take longer than you think they will, then they move quicker than you thought they could.” 

Shops can get by without taking on the challenges of new tech for now, but it will get increasingly more difficult to do and there will come a point when it no longer is viable. Not serving those vehicles is also willingly passing up a steady, growing revenue stream.

Doing the hard work now is daunting, but Chesney said to not let that fear prevent you or your shop from taking the challenge head on.

Your customers will be happier and your shop will be more successful for it. 

“The sky is not falling,” Chesney said. “Opportunity is falling in your lap.”

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