Ask Mike: If the EV Boom Is Real, Is the Industry Ready for It?
with Mike Anderson
This month, we “ASK MIKE” for his thoughts on the industry’s readiness to embrace electric vehicle (EV) repairs. We at Hammer & Dolly hope you find the following exchange useful, and we encourage you to reach out to us if you have a question for Mike on this or any industry-related matter that he can answer in a future issue.
Hammer & Dolly: We have discussed EVs in the past, and you’re at an advantage because you visit with shops all over the country and can gauge where they are in terms of adapting to different things. In terms of EVs at this moment in time, what are your impressions as far as the industry’s overall preparedness to handle these vehicles?
Mike Anderson: The timing of your question is perfect. I was fortunate enough to be at an event for the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of Illinois (AASPI) recently. General Motors and Ford were both on a panel discussion that I was a part of. I asked them, ‘Is this “EV” thing real, or are we still waiting to see?’ They both said it’s not going to happen – it has already happened. First of all, people need to understand that we’re not just talking about Lucid, Rivian and Tesla; it’s Volvo, GM, Ford, Nissan and other OEMs. EVs are already here and happening.
Kudos to I-CAR, because they’ve come out with a class that people can take in Chicago at I-CAR’s Technical Center. That will help people understand what needs to be done. Ford and GM recently shared with attendees in Chicago that their classes are going to be held through I-CAR. Of course, other OEMs, such as Tesla, offers their own training. What I’ve heard most from people is that it is important to not just have training on how to properly repair the vehicle, but that there’s also training on how to handle that vehicle when it’s brought into your shop. I was at a conference recently, and Dirk Fuchs from I-CAR and Jake Rodenroth from Lucid shared a story about a vehicle that had been towed into a shop. Many hours later, that car caught on fire because the battery was concussed; it burned up three or four other cars around it. There are a lot of things that we’re going to have to learn that we don’t even think about. How do you handle that EV when it’s towed in? How do you check the temperature of the battery area? It’s not just about training on how to fix the vehicle; it’s also training on where the vehicle should be stored and quarantined and things of that nature. The days of taking a vehicle off a tow truck and just putting it in your building or parking it on the lot are going to be gone. There’s a whole lot more that has to be considered.
H&D: What’s your impression on where this is all going to go for shops? Do you see EV work becoming a specialized repair that only certain shops will be able to perform?
MA: I do see it becoming specialized, and I do see it as a segment of the industry that will grow. EVs will do to our industry what aluminum sort of did. When aluminum first came out, there were restricted parts sales and specialized training. At some point, EVs are going to be a differentiating factor between the shops that are certified to fix them and those that are not.
H&D: What are you hearing out in the field? Are shops enthusiastic or apprehensive?
MA: Shops are apprehensive because they are concerned about storage and space or the investment when they may not see that many EVs. The shops that are most interested seem to be the ones that have higher-end certifications. They’re already used to having a specific dedicated aluminum bay or whatever the case may be. Those are the shops that are jumping into it and getting the training.
H&D: With EVs, it’s certainly more about safety than it is about tooling and training. If a tech has a bad day, it could be lights out for them.
MA: It’s like what Jake Rodenroth says: “Before, if you did a bad job, you hurt the car. Now, if you do a bad job, the car can hurt you.” Worse yet, it can kill you. Also, we have an obligation to try to educate our firefighters and first responders in our area. They have as much to learn as we do.
H&D: What’s your opinion of the current education available? Is it enough?
MA: We need more. Obviously, as the OEMs have more information come out, that training will be made available. There are so many things to get training on, such as curing times. How long can you bake an EV for? This is not just something for collision techs and estimators; it’s also something for refinish departments to learn about.
Our industry is very resilient. I have no doubt that we’re going to figure it out. Every OEM I’ve talked to is committed to bringing the training. I’m neither concerned nor afraid. Shops are just going to have to figure it out and invest in it.
Want more? Check out the May 2023 issue of Hammer & Dolly!