“Not only does it cost more to repair electric cars, but there is currently a shortage of people capable of doing it. However, postponing everything to after 2035 would not help, because the trend is unstoppable: already within this year, Chinese electric cars will arrive on the market that cost less than 20,000 euros and have 400 kilometers of autonomy, so they are completely competitive with the models thermal propulsion”. Word of Davide Galli, president of the Italian federation of coachbuilders.
In addition to the institutional office, you are also the owner of a workshop. What does your experience in the field tell you about yourself?
“The transition from traditional to electric motors requires workshops to renew equipment and personnel. We will have to work with more electronics, with specialized manpower who will have to know how to do new things, and safety procedures will also change. In the workshops we will start from scratch: we are breaking the chain, on which we could always count in the past, between the expert worker and the apprentice who is taught the trade. Everyone will have to go back to school and learn all over again. A lot of investment will be needed both in things and in people and this will increase repair costs”.
But we are told that electric motors and batteries have fewer components, are simpler and require less maintenance than traditional ones.
“And instead, over the life span of an electric car, there will be more opportunities to get hands-on with it, because battery-powered motors last longer. It is not true, as we hear, that you have to change the batteries every 2 or 3 years. In that time the performance reduces a bit, but not by much, then you go to the workshop and put everything right. But this requires more constant maintenance”.
What he says, however, concerns the mechanical part, and not even all of it, because the brakes, tires, etc. will remain the same as before, and so will the car bodies. Or not?
“No, the cost of repairs for accidents or scratches on the bodywork is also increasing (already now). With the advent of the electric, a competition has begun between manufacturers to launch cars with new colors on the market, specific for these cars, different shades and brighter, metallic, pearlescent colors, and we realize that treating them in the workshop has an increased cost . And a similar argument applies not only to the bodies but also to the bodies and other metal parts that cannot be seen from the outside: they are made with lighter alloys which must be worked with completely different techniques. Here, too, new equipment and refresher courses for personnel are needed, resulting in increased costs for the customer, apart from the fact that in the transition it is and will be difficult even just to find someone who is able to do the job, regardless of the price”.
To tell the truth, the prices of engine and body repairs have already shot up now, without waiting for the transition to the electric car. The insurance companies also say the same, to justify the increase in Rc Auto policies.
“Very true. Car manufacturers have increased spare parts price lists by 15% and this is not only an economic problem, it also increases the risk that mechanics and coachbuilders will purchase and assemble, without the customers’ knowledge, non-original spare parts to save money and keep profit margins. And this is also true for paints, snow accessories, winter tyres, chains, etc. The bodywork sector has tight margins because Italy has three times as many bodybuilders as Germany, so ours have to share a much smaller slice of customers”.
If the customer does not work (in turn) in the branch, he is not able to distinguish between an original part and one that is not. How do you defend yourself?
“As Federcarrozzieri we are putting pressure on the government and other authorities to introduce increasingly strict protocols to protect motorists and motorcyclists. Car manufacturers should agree to this effort which also protects them and their original products.”
And on an individual level, what can be done to protect oneself, whether the cars are electric or traditional?
“Habits need to change. Motorists are used to choosing a workshop close to home, or recommended by a friend or by the insurance company. But this is not enough. It is necessary to check that the workshop you go to adheres to the guidelines of the ‘Workmanlike repairs’ which were required by a bill of 2017, and this applies to all cars. Furthermore, as regards electric and hybrid cars, the workshop must have specific qualifications, called Pes-Pav-Pei which ensure that the staff know how to handle these cars”.
Would it be useful for the sector to postpone the terms of the “all electric” until after 2035?
“I believe that loosening the rules can be psychologically relaxing for customers and that it represents a breath of fresh air for industries, but my belief is that the trend towards electric is unstoppable and will even anticipate the times of I understand that Chinese cars will already be available within this year that cost between 15 and 20 thousand euros and have a range of 400 kilometers, therefore competitive with traditional cars. The transition to electric will take place much earlier than 2035 not because the laws will impose it but because the market will ask for it”.