Electrification was a key topic of discussion between Friedrich Baumann, president, sales marketing and aftersales at Navistar, and Al Dragone, CEO of FleetPride, during the recent Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue.
Session moderator Chris Patterson, retired CEO of Daimler Trucks North America, kicked off the session by asking Baumann and Dragone how quickly fleets would convert to electric vehicles and what that would mean for the aftermarket.
“They are coming faster than we anticipated,” Baumann said. “Customers are interested, but they are shocked by the price.”
He believes the first applications of electric vehicles will be school buses. “Especially with grants available, there will be a high adoption rate.” Door deliveries — last mile — will also be an early adopter. Medium-duty trucks, because they do not have the range challenges of heavy-duty trucks, are also good candidates for electrification.
Baumann believes in the next seven to 10 years, 30% of bus and medium-duty trucks will be electric. Looking beyond the sale of electric vehicles to their impact on the aftermarket, he said that since there are fewer moving parts in an electric vehicle, the revenue per vehicle for parts and service will be less, which could be a challenge for the service providers fleets rely on. Also, he said, parts distribution centers today are not set up to handle batteries and fuel cells and that the industry needs to begin getting infrastructure in place at PDCs to safely handle them. Training and certification of technicians is another area the industry will need to address.
Dragone said the work FleetPride did with Bain in 2018 predicted that 5% of the truck market would be electric by 2030, but he believes adoption is accelerating faster than anticipated. However, the impact of electric trucks won’t be a significant part of the aftermarket for about 10 years, he said.
Baumann said that with the new administration in Washington, he expects electric vehicles to gain even more momentum, but he reminded attendees that there is not yet a good total cost of ownership break-even point for EVs. “Government incentives will be vital to the EV TCO story for the next three to four years,” he said.” He added that most EVs on the road today are in the prototype or pilot stage.
Consolidation, Buy America, COVID-19
Talk then shifted to industry consolidation among dealers and aftermarket parts and service providers, with Patterson asking how far it could go. Dragone said he did not see consolidation as a detriment to the industry. “We will see a continuation of consolidations. It's a natural progression.”
Baumann said it will be difficult for dealers with one or two locations to continue to be competitive because of the investment required to stay current with all the technological changes. This will drive consolidation.
These days, no discussion is complete without addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Baumann said that parts demand is strong; “stronger than expected.” But he added that the supply is fragile, given COVID-related shutdowns that took place in 2020.
There was some discussion of Buy America, given the fact that President Biden just signed an executive order to strength the program. And while it applies only to government spending, the panelists were asked to share their thoughts on the subject.
“I would support a Buy America rule if there were incentives to invest in manufacturing facilities,” Dragone said. He added that often there are no U.S.-manufactured alternatives for some of the products FleetPride sells.