“Me, I knew, when I was little, farriers. I even worked for a farrier. There’s none left. 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 factory of Renault in Vilvoorde. Could this quote soon apply to workshops or car suppliers against the background of the advent of the electric car?
A transition to electric that will revolutionize the market
In any case, this is what a study published by the analysis company Roland Berger for the European Association of Equipment Manufacturers suggests, 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 is expected to increase due to 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, the exhaust and the fuel inlet, for example, are disappearing, which further reduces their sales. The study estimates that spare parts turnover is expected to decline by 13-17% 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 number takes into account the catch-up that equipment manufacturers could achieve thanks to demand for suspension and tire-related parts, the weight of electric vehicles accelerating their wear and tear. Among the electrical-specific parts, the most expensive element to replace will be the battery, with a lifespan of 8 to 12 years and a price that can remain high, ranging from €3,000 to €15,000 depending on the model. This market could reach 4 billion euros in 2040 for electric and rechargeable hybrids, highlights the study by Roland Berger.
Furthermore, if the reputedly reliable electric motor would represent only a market of less than one billion, power electronics, which convert electrical energy into motive power, could represent a market of 2 billion euros. Faced with this new situation, manufacturers may want to regain a share of the aftermarket, even if they have left up to 60% to subcontractors.
Spare parts distributors 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… be limited to basic repairs on these new vehicles.
At first glance, consumers might welcome this drop in the need for replacement parts, as it lowers the cost of maintaining electric vehicles; but ultimately an entire value chain will be turned upside down, which raises several questions. When the EV market normalizes, will maintenance costs still be cheap? How will the concessions that guaranteed the maintenance of thermal vehicles, sometimes with high hourly rates, be recovered?
Another study carried out by PwC Strategy& Consultants on behalf of the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA) pointed to a net loss of 275,000 jobs by 2040 in the European Union as part of the current automotive electrification policy. A figure that takes into account the new hires, namely in software, manufacture and assembly of battery cells, and which presupposes the emergence of a competitive European battery industry… which is still far from happening.