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Reader Letter: Does EV business pay?

By autotech-nath on September 5, 2019

“For the last 15 years, many have said that to continue as an independent, we should alienate much of our customer base and specialise in a certain area or marque. Well, we at Cleevely Motors are still busy and, although having to continually invest in equipment and training, we are still able to maintain most makes and models. 

“Looking to the near future though, what will become of the independent who can’t look after their customers who are changing over to a hybrid or EV? I took the commercial decision 18 months ago to start building an EV and Hybrid part of the business called Cleevely EV after purchasing a Nissan Leaf. After driving this new technology, I knew it would be the successor to our slow, expensive and inefficient combustion engines. We are already seeing our traditional customers transfer to alternative-fuelled vehicles and we can continue to look after them and retain their business. So, 18 months on, how is it going? Day to day we don’t see enough faults or jobs to survive as an EV-only business, however, work and enquiries are increasing, as many owners of these first generation of EVs are searching for somewhere more economical, than dealers, to maintain them. 

“Owning and using EVs daily is a key factor of the reputation we are building. EV customers tend to be very informed about their cars and very passionate about them – be warned, you won’t be able to baffle them with information about repairs! I haven’t yet experienced any hugely problematic jobs. We have replaced a Tesla on-board charge unit, which was diagnosed by Tesla remotely, and the customer came to us for the replacement to save costs. We have investigated faults that we have traced back to wiring, nothing more technical than you will see in your workshop. There are the obvious dangers of working with high voltage, but due to my training, I am fully aware of the necessary processes to keep myself and my colleagues safe. 

“You may have seen previous reports about our training facilities being used by Pro-Moto to train other technicians, or ‘the competition’. I have been asked, more than once, why I would want other garages doing the same thing as us? The answer is because I want all independents to continue and thrive. Electrified drivetrain adoption will grow and I believe it will grow faster if independents are qualified to maintain them and promote the benefits to their customer bases, or at least have the knowledge to answer questions about them. This is why I’m assisting the IMI with the TechSafe scheme and share my experience with the Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance, or HEVRA. Over the last 18 months, we have developed specialist parts, instructional videos and guides for any independent that wants to create their own EV section of the business. These are now available with the additional membership levels of HEVRA, including access to our stock of used EV and Tesla rental opportunities. I can’t recommend the benefits HEVRA membership has given us highly enough. We are regularly asked by EV owners up and down the country if we are going to franchise, but we see our involvement with HEVRA as a better opportunity to share the benefits with other independents, so we can all thrive. 

“So, am I happy I made the difficult commercial decision 18 months ago? The answer is most definitely, yes. I’m very proud of the Cleevely EV and Motors team for building the reputation we have within the EV community. It has involved a lot of dedication, weekend events and still requires constant social media promotion and involvement, but I know it is the right direction to go in. We aren’t stopping at what we have achieved so far either, there is more to come, but we are in the biggest change period our trade has ever seen, so why not keep changing?” 

Matt Cleevely, Cleevely Motors, Cheltenham. 

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Autotechnician is a magazine published nine times a year, delivering essential information to independent garage owners and technicians in the UK. Delivered both digitally and in print, autotechnician provides readers with technical, training, business advice, product and news, allowing our readers to keep up to date with information they need to run and work within a modern workshop.
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