Auto refurbishing industry set to thrive again, thanks to electric vehicles

There was a time when people who had bikes and cars in India were seen with awe and naturally, respected, for they had the money to buy and run those vehicles. With very few vehicle owners, the aftermarket industry was not a great one back in the day, with only OEMs and certain houses present and prevalent. Thus, the informal sector grew and ran successfully alongside the formal sector when it came to the automotive industry.

For example, when a bike’s shock absorbers wear over time, people could either change them altogether and fit a new part in their vehicle, or they could very well take the ageing part to mechanics who would restore them so that it can be used once again. Today, the informal sector has all but vanished with respect to repairing and refurbishing parts. We live in times where mobile phones are refurbished and sold once again but car and bike components go to the wreckers.

But, I think the refurbishing industry will thrive once again, with manufacturers potentially taking up the process too. Why? Because times are changing. With electric vehicles coming in, people will naturally choose them because they will be cheaper to run, thus saving thousands of rupees in the process.

The result would be exactly what the government wanted. By raising the cost of fuel, the government has been forcing people to opt for vehicles that are less expensive to run. People would be happy that they are saving cash (in the short-term, mind you), the government would be happy that they are saving cash as well (they have to buy fuel right?) and the result will be glorious, according to our ever-boasting lawmakers.

Naturally, the architecture of electric vehicles are different from the current crop of vehicles. This means, they will be heavier, meaning, they would eat up the brakes sooner than expected, even with regenerative braking helping them out. They might also eat up tyres soon, as in India, two-wheelers are not just used for joyriding, they have other purposes too. This enormous thirst of electric vehicles to consume…err, consumables will drive people to look at the informal sector that offers cheaper alternatives and services.

For example, a middle-class person who runs an electric scooter would rather skim the discs to get more life out of them rather than changing them altogether. Things like springs, dampers, bushes, tie rods and their bushing, might well need to be replaced sooner and the aftermarket industry will thrive, with the informal sector striking gold more possibly than not.

Manufacturers too would be in a fix. For instance, current crop of manufacturers who made their name by making exhilarating vehicles to drive will keep making parts of such vehicles to keep the owners happy, despite having adopted electric architecture long back, because forgetting their roots will lead to their doom. Just look at what is happening in India to know why. We forgot our roots and keep learning about how the foreigners enslaved us and that mindset keeps us as global labourers, rather than global leaders.

So, manufacturers will have to make those parts and eventually, when they cannot do that (accountants will scream that it is not feasible), they will resort to having specialist restoration shops that will work on petrol and diesel vehicles. It is exactly like Lamborghini, Ferrari and exotic carmakers having a shop to maintain their vintage and classic cars. But the difference will be that such shops will, most probably, be handling all IC-engined vehicles.

However, there might well be a greater issue at hand for people to face. For example, an electric vehicle will be made of far fewer components than a conventional vehicle. When that components fail, the result would break the bank vaults of many a individual.

What’s more the government does not have any plans regarding that. The fact that a battery pack, with current technology, will only last for 10 years, is not problem of theirs. It is us, the people who buy such vehicles, who have to deal with it and buy new packs. This would again take the masses to the aftermarket industry, where, let’s face it, billing is nowhere to be seen and the government would not get its due taxes paid.

We seem to be headed towards a vicious circle, one that can be regulated by the lawmakers, if they think things through. It is important to take every single aspect into consideration. Losing tax money in the pretext of saving fuel costs, does not seem to be a great idea to my puny brain. But, these are all assumptions and predictions of what can be and what might be. But, even I, a common man, is entitled to his thoughts.

Praveen Kumar S