Since Congress put them in place in 1975, the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards have aimed to cut fuel usage. And while the car industry has been working steadily to keep up ever since, the most recent requirements are anything but business as usual. From 1990 to 2010, the standard was 27.5 mpg, but efforts to reduce fuel usage have ramped up in recent years. The current goal for 2025 is 54.5 mpg. The regulations could change with political tides, but manufacturers aren’t holding their breath and continue to make advances toward that number, trimming down the weight of their cars, using smaller engines and more.
Carmakers are feeling the brunt of these regulations, but there are some significant ripple effects. Consumers are looking at a future devoid of spare tires, and collision repair shops are exploring a whole new landscape. Here’s a look at how the changes are already affecting shops and what the future could hold.
As a repair pro, you’re probably seeing the shift to lighter vehicles up close, as a wider variety of metals make their way to your shop, with a significant increase in aluminum specifically. To put some real numbers behind it, in 1985, light cars contained an average of 139 lbs. of aluminum. Fast-forward to 2015 and the average was 394 lbs. per car. That’s a 283 percent increase! What’s more, that average is projected to reach 547 lbs. by 2025 as carmakers continue to use the light, strong metal.
So the rise of aluminum is real, and shops will need to ramp up aluminum repair capabilities if they haven’t already. That means you’ll need to:
- Have the right tools for the job. Take stock and make sure you have items like, aluminum welders, a debonding unit that works with aluminum, and structural holding tools designed for aluminum repair techniques.
- Put proper safety measures in place. Working with aluminum brings some unique hazards, and it’s important to have a dedicated aluminum work area complete with a fume extractor and dust extractor.
- Provide the training your techs need. The shift to aluminum likely calls for some formal instruction for your staff. Classes like the Chief University Aluminum Damage Analysis and Repair Technology Course teach techs how aluminum is different than steel and what those differences mean for repair methods.
Looking to the Future
Despite working steadily toward the new CAFE standards, manufacturers are reaching a point where the same old minor improvements won’t cut it. The CAFE standards look at the average for an automakers’ entire fleet, and to bring those averages down, some experts predict automakers may turn to electric vehicles. That doesn’t mean we’ll all be driving electric cars in 2025, but it does mean consumers will likely have more electric car options to choose from by then.
That could mean that the electric car repair market—once served by a few specialty shops—will expand. Will that expansion be wide enough that your shop should prepare? We don’t have a crystal ball, but we do know that change is a constant in this industry, and those shifts are happening at a faster pace these days. Be on the lookout for signs of what your customers will need in the coming years. When you move with the industry, you won’t be left behind.
Need help staying up to date on it all? Check out our blog on “Keeping Up With Aluminum News.”