Expert Insights

How Car Dealers Are Servicing Electric Cars

Dave Nichols
April 23, 2024
Electric vehicles don’t need regular oil and other fluid changes, so what does that mean for dealership service departments? Well, electric cars still have tires, brakes, and other car parts - we explain servicing in this article.
mechanic explaining service to customer

Electric Vehicles Require Fewer Maintenance Visits

One of the major reasons to choose an electric vehicle over a gasoline vehicle is lower overall running costs. An electric car can save you thousands on fuel, an advantage that gets better the further you drive, and its less complex drivetrain, with fewer moving parts, needs less regular maintenance. Electric vehicles don’t need regular oil and other fluid changes, and over-the-air (OTA) updates will wirelessly update navigation, entertainment, and other on-board software without needing a dealership visit.

While it’s true that EVs require less maintenance overall, and that they experience less mechanical wear and tear due to fewer components in the drivetrain, they do still need service. Generally, electric vehicles weigh more than their gasoline counterparts, meaning tires, brakes, and suspensions are still subject to wear and tear.

Most dealerships’ bread-and-butter revenue in the service departments comes from work involving tires, brakes, suspensions, alignments, and electrical systems – so the shift to electric, while reducing the demand for regular fluid changes, may be not be that disruptive for dealerships’ service departments. Regenerative braking means brake wear is lower, but due to their extra weight, EVs may actually put more strain on struts, ball joints, and other suspension components that will require repair or replacement.

Female mechanic looking at computer

EVs Call for Special Equipment and Training

It is the complex electrical systems in EVs that will force bigger changes in dealership service departments. Big batteries, and the high-voltage electrical systems that support them, require a significant investment in training and special equipment for proper handling. For instance, special equipment, parts, and tools, can cost a dealer tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, and service personnel must be trained in the proper handling of high-voltage equipment to ensure workshops stay safe. Many car manufacturers require these equipment and training upgrades before allowing dealerships to handle electric cars.

Most electric cars also come with a suite of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), enabled by their fully-integrated, networked technology. Using a battery of sensors, cameras, and radar systems, ADAS provides additional safety and security for drivers – but require lengthy and complex calibration processes when they go wrong, or when a vehicle is involved in a collision. Which means that while EVs may necessitate fewer service touchpoints for customers – and fewer parts – each visit may require more time, and more specialized labor.

Woman and man in waiting room

Electric Service May Take Longer

Typically, as vehicles age past the end of their warranty, many drivers begin servicing their vehicles at independent mechanic shops; given the investment, training, and proprietary equipment required, it will be more difficult for independent shops to properly service and repair EVs. But while dealers might see more business from older EVs, they will have fewer chances to make a positive impression on customers.

What’s clear is that dealers still have a lot of work to do to properly prepare for the electric future. They’ll need to make substantial investments in preparing maintenance and service staff to work on EV powertrains – and ensure the deliver an exceptional customer experience at every visit. Dealers that embrace the coming changes to the industry will be well-positioned to continue to serve customers over the lifetime of a vehicle.