In December car maker Ford announced a $4.5 billion investment in hybrid and electric vehicles, along with the ambition to offer 40% of its total fleet in hybrid or plug-in versions by 2020.
When Ford makes a prediction the industry takes note, and the prediction is clear. “In this business, you have to project where you see consumer demand going forward,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told the press.
Whatever their current popularity, Ford is betting that the future of motoring will increasingly be dominated by hybrid and electric vehicles, and the odds are in the company’s favour. Low current oil prices only mask a long term trend towards more expensive fossil fuels, the company believes.
On top of that, national and international regulation will make hybrid vehicles increasingly popular over the next decade.
If Ford is right, and other major manufacturers are investing heavily in hybrid development too, a huge opportunity opens up for forward thinking independent garages.
“Garages need to be aware that this is happening now and they need to get on board early,” says Steve Carter of automotive training company Exponentia. “There will be huge advantages for being ahead of the curve when it comes to hybrid technology.”
The business benefits of being one of the few local garages with expertise in servicing and repairing hybrid vehicles are clear. A reputation gained early in the new technology’s lifetime will be a reputation competitors find difficult to match.
AutoCare garages are proving themselves to be among the most forward thinking in the country when it comes to hybrid repair and servicing. According to IMI (Institute of the Motor Industry) statistics, around 1,000 technicians across the UK are qualified to IMI Level Three for hybrid vehicles, and using his own statistics based on delivered training Steve Carter has calculated that more than 50% of that total are employed by AutoCare garages.
AutoCare ahead of the curve
Maria McCullough, network manager for AutoCare and Approved Garages, confirmed that nearly 500 technicians have been qualified for hybrid engines through AutoCare since 2012 alone. Others have reached the Level Three qualification through other routes.
Achieving an IMI Level Three certificate means a technician is qualified to service and repair a hybrid vehicle and replace a high voltage component.
“Part of the reason the public trusts AutoCare garages and gives them such excellent feedback is the high standard of technical expertise AutoCare mechanics demonstrate,” says Maria.
“This has long been true with traditional petrol and diesel engines and, as these figures show, it is increasingly the case for hybrid as well.”
Steve Carter believes this commitment to hybrid training puts the AutoCare network in a very strong position, effectively future-proofing the AutoCare offer.
“This trend isn’t going to stop,” he says, “and at the moment the manufacturers are happy for everyone to believe that only dealers can properly service hybrid vehicles. The more technicians that are trained in hybrid, the quicker we can change that perception.”
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