“Me, I met him, when I was little, farriers. I even worked for a farrier. There’s no more. They disappeared. This does not mean that civilization has regressed. This is life…declared Jacques Chirac, a little condescendingly, to evoke the closure of the Belgian Renault factory in Vilvoorde. Could this quote soon be applied to automotive workshops or suppliers in the context of the arrival of the electric car?
A transition to electricity that will revolutionize the market
In any case, this is what is suggested by a study published by the analysis firm Roland Berger for the European Association of Equipment Manufacturers, which explains that electric cars reduce the purchase of spare parts by 30%. In fact, although electric cars now represent 10% of European registrations, their number will increase given the regulations imposed by Brussels and the end of the sale of new thermal vehicles from 2035.
Parts related to the complexity of the internal combustion engine but also to the gearbox, exhaust and fuel intake, for example, are disappearing, further cutting into sales. The study estimates that spare parts turnover should fall between 13% and 17% by 2040 compared to 2019, depending on how quickly electric cars multiply in the European market.
Up to €15,000 to change a battery
This figure takes into account the recovery that could be achieved by equipment manufacturers thanks to the demand for parts related to suspension and tires, whose heaviness accelerates the wear of electric vehicles. Among the specific parts of the electric, the most expensive element to change will be the battery, with a useful life of 8 to 12 years and a price that can continue to be high, ranging between €3,000 and €15,000 depending on the model. This market could reach 4,000 million euros in 2040 for electric and rechargeable hybrids, underlines the study by Roland Berger.
In addition, if the electric motor, which is said to be reliable, will only represent a market of less than one billion, power electronics, which converts electrical energy into driving force, could represent a market of two billion euros. Faced with this new situation, manufacturers may want to recover part of the after-sales market, although they had left up to 60% to subcontractors.
Parts dealers and mechanics will have to adapt to this change. If the former can play an important role in the recovery and recycling of used parts, the latter will have to train and invest in equipment, or… limit themselves to basic repairs on these new vehicles.
At first glance, the consumer might welcome this drop in the need for spare parts, to the extent that it reduces the cost of maintaining electric vehicles; but ultimately an entire value chain will be upended, which raises a number of questions. When the electric vehicle market normalizes, will maintenance costs remain cheap? How will the concessions that ensured the maintenance of thermal vehicles, with sometimes high hourly rates, be recovered?
Another study carried out by PwC Strategy & consultants on behalf of the European Automotive Suppliers Association (CLEPA) pointed to a net loss of 275,000 jobs by 2040 in the European Union as part of the current car electrification policy. A figure that takes into account new hires, especially in software, battery cell manufacturing and assembly, and assumes that a competitive European battery industry will emerge… which is still far from the case.
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