The future is already here

There are some big challenges ahead for the aftermarket, Neil  explains what's in store

Published:  12 February, 2015

By Neil Pattemore

It's 2015 and another year has passed, but what will the future bring for the automotive industry and in particular, the aftermarket? There are some significant changes in the not-too-distant future which will change the industry forever. Let's take a look at some of these here and see how they could impact your business?

So, if diesel engines are the new pariah, what's the alternative? New designs of petrol engine are coming into the market using smaller capacity engines with turbochargers to produce higher power outputs. In doing so, higher combustion pressures and temperatures increases NOx. This needs post-combustion treatment, with as yet, unknown longer term impacts, so is there a truly 'green' alternative?

The obvious answer is electric cars - accepting that the electricity needs to be generated somewhere, but it might be easier to clean up a power station than a myriad of cars - but are they viable? The answer is now probably 'yes', but at a cost. However, prices are already starting to drop as new registrations increase, albeit from a very low volume base. With Tesla now being the most popular car in Norway and with a new smaller and cheaper 'model 3' being launched in 2016, this is a game-changing scenario. The performance and range are highly acceptable and Tesla has now made their clever fast re-charging algorithm openly available to other electric vehicle manufacturers as a philanthropic gesture to support the industry sector. At the other end of the scale, there are new small electric vehicles coming to the market which can be type-approved as quadracycles (they must weigh less than 450Kgs without the battery) - think Renault Twizy. These may technically be classified in the same category as a powered two-wheeler (motorcycle), but have real-world practicality in the inner city environment.

With Lithium-ion batteries now being developed that can provide three times the performance and crafted to be part of a vehicle's body panels, new vehicle designs will certainly be different to those we all know today!

Alternatively, will the vehicle owner still be able to conduct any work on their own vehicle? It would be fair to say that many vehicle owners have little understanding about their cars and have increasing expectations that a garage (and the technicians employed there) are adequately trained and qualified to work on their pride and joy. In other words, there is an increasing expectation that garages should be licensed to ensure competency. However, although conceptually, this may appear to be a good idea, the UK government has little appetite to get involved and perhaps increasing vehicle technology will be the method that eventually establishes a form of self-control licensing. Only those garages that are technically competent (i.e. well trained), efficient, well equipped and managed will survive.

Working on cars may also change in the near future with the development of augmented reality, where a camera worn by the technician as part of a pair of special glasses will allow corresponding repair information to be projected onto another part of the glasses to guide the repair process with details of the spare parts needed - all in real time.

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