It is both fascinating and understandable to see the many similarities between the Australian automotive aftermarket and the American market
Our recent attendance at SEMA and AAPEX in Las Vegas was an opportunity to compare our Australian market conditions with the real-world experience of American car owners, their buying patterns and their aspirations for the future.
Independently of any other nation, we have been forecasting Australia’s key auto trends; specifically, ADAS integration into new models and EV take up.
Sitting in on AAPEX seminars and meeting with the Auto Care Association, their data experts and their government relations team revealed a very similar pattern to our own experience.
Their data, and ours, predicts a slow and steady take up of EVs reaching 30 percent of new sales in 2030. After this slow growth occurring over the next seven to eight years, the numbers start to escalate quickly with 55 percent of new car sales by 2035.
Again, this translates slowly into the whole car parc – by 2030 we expect to continue to have 88 percent of the car park on petrol or diesel. The key messages from the American aftermarket is that EVs are coming but we have time to transition – but we can’t ignore the trend.
It does feel reassuring to see our numbers closely resemble the Americans because we have very similar consumer demand and trends: a love of 4WDs and SUVs, a tendency to drive further and keep our vehicle for longer – all trends that make our markets unique.
Our predictions for what will happen here are of course an educated guess and so we take some comfort in seeing how closely our predictions line up with the USA.
Our preference is to continue to monitor the US experience because when it comes to EV, the traditionally quoted European and Nordic markets are very different from our own.
While we are certainly receiving data from Norway and France, their lifestyle, incentives, government regulation, weather and road conditions are wildly different from our experience so it is difficult to see their trend rate as a pattern that would be repeated here.
Also discussed with other nations similar to our own in terms of consumer spending on transport was the trend rate regarding hybrid vehicles.
The interesting trend for the take up of Hybrids is that their trend rate and ours is declining. It is hard to know if this is a result of the supply issues that are affecting our new car sales market or if consumers are now demonstrating a desire to hang onto their ICE vehicles and wait until the price of battery electric vehicles reduces as predicted over the next 24 to 36 months. We need to see more sales data to confirm if this is likely to be a real trend but as BEVs become an aspirational purchase, we may see Australian consumers skip over the hybrid and wait to purchase a full BEV.
So much is unknown in our future – few would be able to express with any certainty which alternate fuels will dominate over the next 30 years. That’s why our connections with similar markets have become so important.
We need to stick close to the markets that have similar road conditions so we can see their patterns and learn from them.
For instance, we don’t know all we would like to know about parts and servicing expenditure and beyond the common statements that EVs do not require as much servicing, not much is known about their operation in harsher conditions or their servicing requirements in the coming four-to-seven-year period.
Again, we can see from the US data that there is a 22 percent drop in servicing costs (parts and labour) in the first three years of ownership. But what happens after that is not known for our Australian conditions.
Despite the lack of real-world data, we still see plenty of speculation about the early demise of our industry based on wild assumptions and inappropriate comparisons with Norway. We need to keep a steady hand on the rudder, stick close to markets that make sense for comparison and make sure we continue to be agile and ready for change.
Just like our colleagues from the USA, we’re not going to panic, and we will base our future plans on good credible data and our faith in our industry’s ability to gear up for the future and make the right investment decisions at the right time.