Will the arrival of electric vehicles be the final revolutionary event that spells the end of the automotive aftermarket?
The EVs are coming, the EVs are coming! I am sure that many of you recognize this play on words from Paul Revere’s famous midnight ride. I am also sure that some of the readers of this article view the arrival of electric vehicles as the final revolutionary event that spells the end of the automotive aftermarket. I want to add a little perspective for those worried about our demise.
I began my career in the automotive aftermarket in the late 1960s, and it seems like, from that point, something was coming down the pike that was going to be the end of the aftermarket. One of the first things I can remember being an industry killer was the arrival of “breaker-less” ignition in the early 1970s. What in the world would everybody do if we could no longer sell points, condensers, and rotors?
It seems like the aftermarket was going to be doomed ever since the disappearance of the traditional tune-up. Here is a small sampling of changes that were going to ruin the aftermarket: fuel injection, foreign cars, rack and pinion steering, MacPherson strut suspension, smaller displacement engines, OBDII, extended service intervals, extended warranties, ADAS, telematics — and who can forget the general fear of a takeover by new car dealers?
Not only has the aftermarket met every one of these challenges, but it has turned these changes into opportunities to grow the overall market. Remanufactured steering racks and complete strut assemblies are prime examples of the automotive aftermarket seizing opportunities brought on by change. This is why the aftermarket continues to thrive and why, in my opinion, it remains one of the most stable and vital industries within the U.S. economy.
Much has been made about EVs having significantly fewer moving parts than traditional internal combustion drivetrains, and it is true that they do. However, they still have a lot of conventional wear components such as brakes, ride control, suspension and steering components, wiper blades, and even cabin air filters. I would also suspect there will be a sizable opportunity with diagnostics and electronic components over time due to the sophisticated technology within the EV platform.
So, will EVs present new challenges to the market? Yes. Will EVs change the market? Yes, eventually, they will. Will they kill the aftermarket? I highly doubt it. I predict the aftermarket will do what it has always done, grow the business by embracing the future, developing new opportunities, and meeting the new challenges head-on.
Steve Sharp’s career began in his father’s repair shop in 1967 and then moved to the parts side of the industry in 1973. For the last 48 years, Sharp has worked exclusively in the replacement parts segment of the automotive aftermarket. In 1988, Sharp began what would turn out to be a 33-year career with WORLDWIDE Trading Company/ WORLDPAC, from which he retired in 2021. He is currently studying for his master’s degree. Sharp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org