There are going to be some very big changes to automotive technologies coming over the next 20 years. During the month of August, the Obama Administration finalized new standards for vehicle fuel economy. By 2025, all new cars and light-duty trucks produced in the United States will be mandated to achieve the equivalent of 54.5 MPG. Combined with previous standards set by the administration, it will effectively double the fuel efficiency compared with what is currently on the road today.
Vehicle makers and parts manufacturers will invest heavily in innovative technologies and radical new engine designs to meet those standards. There is going to be an emphasis on more advanced computer control systems to improve engine performance and fuel consumption. Aftermarket parts suppliers will keep pace.
The impact to our industry will be immense. First off, technicians and apprentices in the coming years will have to familiarize themselves with a new range of vehicle technologies. Their skill sets will change in order to work on the new engines that will come down the assembly lines.
They will also need to be ready to spend a lot more time working with complex vehicle electronics. If technicians are startled by the number of systems in today’s vehicles, they are going to be stunned by what is likely to be found in 2025 vehicles. Think of how different cellular phones are today from what their cousins were capable of only a decade earlier. The change is startling.
For independents, these new mileage standards will bring profound changes to their business operations. It will not mean the standard oil change and tire rotation will disappear, although you will likely be dealing with new oil formulation specifications and more advanced TPMS systems. Instead, there is going to be a greater emphasis on diagnostic work, on technicians spending more time using advanced computer-based tools to access the onboard computer systems for even the most basic of maintenance and repair work.
Along with the investment in tools, there is going to have to be a greater investment in technician training focusing on the electronics as well as the mechanical aspect of vehicle maintenance and repair. You may likely see a technician spending as much time going through complex diagnostic screens, electronic schematics and downloading needed vehicle updates to maintain these news engines as you will see them spinning a wrench.
What can be said for certain is the technicians of 2025 and beyond are not so much going to be different breed from what we see today. It is just they are going to be doing a lot of different and more complex things.