The aftermarket industry, which focuses on repair and maintenance, is the end of the automotive value chain and an important livelihood service industry. In recent years, with the gradual recovery of the consumer market and the continuous upgrading of China's automobile industry, this industry has also ushered in new opportunities and challenges.

Recently, the Ministry of Commerce and other nine departments jointly issued the "Guiding Opinions on Promoting the High-quality Development of the Automotive Aftermarket" (hereinafter referred to as the "Guiding Opinions"), which once again clarified the overall goals and main tasks of the development of the automotive aftermarket. The "Guiding Opinions" put forward that it is necessary to accurately grasp the law of the development of the automobile market and fully understand the positive significance of the development of the automobile aftermarket.

In order to promote the steady growth of the scale of the automobile aftermarket and better meet the diversified automobile consumption needs of consumers, the "Guiding Opinions" put forward seven policy measures: optimizing the circulation environment of auto parts, promoting the quality and upgrading of automobile maintenance services, building a multi-level automobile event pattern, accelerating the development of the traditional classic car industry, supporting the construction of self-driving caravans and other camps, enriching the experience of automobile culture, and optimizing automobile consumer financial services.

Among them, in view of the repair and maintenance links in the automobile aftermarket, the "Guiding Opinions" put forward that in order to promote the quality and upgrading of automobile maintenance services, it is necessary to speed up the construction of new energy vehicle maintenance technical standard system, strengthen after-sales maintenance training, develop automobile green maintenance, and improve the digital service ability of automobile maintenance, so as to better support the development of the new energy vehicle industry and protect the rights and interests of car owners.

New energy vehicle aftersales accounts for less than 1% of the entire value chain

Statistics released by the Ministry of Public Security show that as of the end of September 2023, the number of cars in the country has reached 9 million, of which the number of new energy vehicles has reached 3.3 million. It is predicted that the sales of new energy passenger vehicles are expected to exceed 1821.2023 million units in 850, with a market penetration rate of 36%.

Obviously, with the increase in the proportion of the new energy vehicle market, the automotive aftermarket has ushered in completely different opportunities and challenges in its after-sales service, repair, maintenance and other links.

Zhang Yanhua, president of the China Automobile Maintenance and Maintenance Industry Association, believes that compared with fuel vehicles, the body structure and technology of new energy vehicles have undergone fundamental changes, which has had a profound change and extensive impact on the automobile repair and maintenance market. At the same time, new energy vehicles are more intelligent and digital than fuel vehicles, and the head brands are more concentrated, so the supply chain system of the aftermarket is more complex.

He told reporters that compared with the era of fuel vehicles, the repair and maintenance market of new energy vehicles has five new characteristics, "maintenance business content, technical process, skill requirements, business philosophy and industry profit structure, have undergone great changes."

"Overall, the integration of new energy vehicles and parts is higher, the maintenance operation items will be reduced, and the frequency of maintenance will also be reduced. At the same time, traditional maintenance skills are no longer suitable for development. Zhang Yanhua said that because the three-electric system of new energy vehicles has replaced the engine and gearbox of traditional cars, the traditional maintenance business based on oil change has shrunk significantly, and the maintenance of the three-electric system based on three-electric inspection and voltage balancing has gradually become the mainstream.

"These changes mean that the knowledge structure and ability level of the existing maintenance personnel can not well meet the requirements of electric vehicle maintenance, mainly due to the lack of professional ability in electronics and communications, the lack of operation and use skills and maintenance technical capabilities, and the lack of safety risk assessment and protection capabilities." He analyzed that with the continuous enhancement of intelligent network functions, electric vehicle fault diagnosis operations are more dependent on big data and cloud platforms, and the impact of technical barriers to car company authorization has increased.

At the same time, the facilities, tools and equipment of the maintenance site also need to be upgraded. Especially under live conditions, the safety requirements for the working environment will be higher, and traditional operations such as sheet metal spraying and rescue also need to upgrade the process.

Yan Fengmin, vice chairman of the China Consumer Goods Quality and Safety Promotion Association and former director of the Law Enforcement and Supervision Department of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China, said bluntly that the after-sales service industry of new energy vehicles is seriously lagging behind the vehicle manufacturing industry.

"Compared with fuel vehicles, the after-sales service market of new energy vehicles is very immature, and there is a problem of strong vehicles and weak after-sales service, which is currently very prominent." Yan Fengmin compared a set of data: the proportion of after-sales service in the whole life cycle of the automobile industry, mature markets in developed countries generally account for 33%-45%; China's proportion is only about 12%, and new energy vehicles are less than 1%.

"Once the development of the aftermarket lags behind, it will seriously restrict the sustainable development of the new energy vehicle industry." He analyzed that on the one hand, the market supply of after-sales service for new energy vehicles is obviously insufficient; On the other hand, the technical ability and personnel quality of after-sales service enterprises are uneven, and they cannot adapt to the new needs of new energy vehicle repair and maintenance.

"The focus of the repair and maintenance of new energy vehicles has become the battery, motor, electronic control, but also involves electronic information, communications and other professional fields, which puts forward higher requirements for the professional knowledge, professional technology and professional talents of aftermarket service providers." Yan Fengmin reminded that with the rapid growth of China's new energy vehicles and the extension of vehicle age, the growth of consumer demand for car repair and maintenance, and the contradiction between the overall scale and insufficient capacity of after-sales service is likely to become increasingly prominent.

Turn the pressure of a challenge into a driving force for transformation

"The development of new energy vehicles not only poses new challenges to the automobile maintenance industry, but also provides new opportunities for the transformation and development of maintenance enterprises." Zhang Yanhua said that it is necessary to guide maintenance enterprises to take the initiative to adapt to market changes, seize the new opportunities brought by digitalization and electronics, make up for shortcomings, strengths and weaknesses, and continuously improve service capabilities and market competitiveness.

In his view, with the development of intelligent network technology and the impact of the digital economy, the after-sales service of new energy vehicles pays more attention to the digital management of the whole value chain, and attaches importance to the whole life cycle management of users and vehicles. This means that the convergence of the front and back markets will be higher, and the boundaries will be more blurred.

At the previous China Electric Vehicle 100 Forum, Hu Xiaodong, President of Tuhu Car Maintenance, said that the current new energy vehicle market has many models and a very large number of parts, and there are very big differences between the after-sales service specifications formulated by various enterprises, which makes the aftermarket more complex. Therefore, the development of the new energy vehicle aftermarket requires upstream and downstream coordination, integration and co-construction.

In April this year, the landing ceremony of the "New Energy and Intelligent Vehicle Aftermarket Joint Innovation Platform" was held in Beijing. As the first industry platform in China's new energy vehicle aftermarket, the platform was developed by the China Electric Vehicle 4 Association and China Motor, with the participation of leading enterprises in the industrial chain such as CATL and Tuhu Yangche.

Many people in the industry are aware that with the significant increase in the number of new energy vehicles, the corresponding maintenance demand needs a large enough system to support. Some analysts believe that the store layout of independent third-party after-sales enterprises covers major cities and sinking markets, which can provide a wider after-sales service network for new energy vehicles.

Statistics show that by the end of 2022, Tuhu has deployed an offline service network of 4653,40 workshops and stores across the country, and its warehousing and distribution layout covers major cities across the country. Tuhu's sinking stores have covered nearly 1300% of counties and cities across the country, with more than <>,<> stores.

"Tuhu hopes to cooperate with upstream and downstream to build a new energy vehicle after-sales ecosystem and help the development of the new energy vehicle industry." Hu Xiaodong emphasized that the development of the new energy vehicle aftermarket is inseparable from the collaborative linkage of the industrial chain. At present, Tuhu has carried out synergistic linkage with upstream and downstream enterprises, and has begun to provide a number of after-sales services for new energy vehicles, including vehicle-related tires, beauty, modification, maintenance and other projects, power battery testing related to the three-electric system, power battery and new energy charging pile repair projects.

It is understood that in terms of OEMs, Tuhu has taken the initiative to accelerate its integration into the OEM system, reached strategic cooperation with many car companies such as Leap and Jihu, and achieved "both oil and electricity repair" in more and more workshops. In terms of power batteries, Tuhu has signed long-term cooperation agreements with many power battery companies such as EVE and Honeycomb, and has provided power battery testing and repair services in more than 300 cities across the country. In terms of charging piles, Tuhu has reached strategic cooperation with leading charging pile operators such as Telai and launched a charging pile maintenance solution.

Zhang Yanhua believes that relevant enterprises should see that although new energy vehicles have reduced the profitability of traditional oil change maintenance, their integrated aluminum body technology and high requirements for tire performance will also provide new opportunities.

"For example, in order to improve the cruising range, new energy vehicles often have high requirements for low rolling resistance tires, which will bring new profit growth space to the tire business." For example, he said that considering that new energy vehicle users are generally younger, the consumer demand for beauty washing businesses such as body film will also increase.

Digitalization promotes transparency, allowing consumers to "step on less thunder" when maintaining

In fact, the electrification and intelligence of the automobile industry have also put forward new ideas for solving the stubborn problems of the aftermarket.

Zhang Yanhua told reporters that in the past, the chain of the supply chain system of automotive aftermarket parts was very long. After a part is produced from the factory, it has to go through multiple levels of wholesalers and service providers before it can be installed on the car at the repair shop. This long chain will produce many blockages, which will affect the service quality of automobile repair and maintenance, and cause problems such as opaque automobile maintenance prices and harm to consumer rights and interests.

"The entire automotive industry should be ecological and digital, and the main engine factory, parts and aftermarket should be a trinity. Zhang Yanhua said that digitalization will bring many new opportunities for the transformation and upgrading of the auto maintenance industry.

The reporter learned that whether it is the digital management of auto maintenance parts, or the digital transformation of auto maintenance diagnosis, or the formation of a "online appointment + offline maintenance" service model, digital tools can greatly improve the efficiency of enterprise operations, and at the same time realize the standardization, transparency and traceability of maintenance, so as to better protect the rights and interests of consumers.

Zhang Yanhua believes that in recent years, platform-based enterprises represented by Tuhu Car Maintenance and are taking this opportunity to cut into the digital chain and build a full life cycle service matrix, which has won market recognition.

For example, Tuhu's auto parts database covers 286 brands and more than 6,6 models, with a matching accuracy of 99.99%. At the same time, Tuhu has also built the largest car service store and technician management system in China - "Blue Tiger System". By the end of March this year, the system had connected more than 3,9 auto repair technicians.

According to the analysis of industry experts, it is thanks to the strong store system and supply chain system that Tuhu can continue to improve service transparency, promote the development of industry standardization and standardization, and ultimately effectively improve the company's operating efficiency and market reputation.

Zhang Yanhua said: "Practice has proved that digitalization can effectively help maintenance enterprises strengthen the whole life cycle management, improve the back-end supply chain integration capabilities, improve decision-making, marketing and operation capabilities, and form a customer-centric service operation system, which ultimately helps enterprises reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve quality, and maintain market competitive advantages." ”

He said that the digital transformation of the auto repair industry is the trend of the times, and it is also the only choice for the sustainable development of maintenance enterprises. "Maintenance companies that cannot carry out digital upgrades or are difficult to integrate into the digital ecosystem will be quickly eliminated."

It is worth noting that the "Guiding Opinions" announced this time proposed that in order to optimize the circulation environment of auto parts, it is necessary to formulate and implement the circulation standards of auto parts in the aftermarket, encourage the development of chain management and other parts circulation models, and promote the standardized, transparent and efficient development of auto parts circulation.

"In recent years, the wide application of a new generation of information technology such as 5G, big data, blockchain and industrial Internet, and cloud computing in the field of automobile maintenance has strongly promoted the innovation and integration of automobile maintenance parts circulation and maintenance business models." Zhang Yanhua said that at present, digital upgrading has become a new engine for economic recovery, and electrification transformation has also become a new track for the revitalization of the automobile industry, both of which are key factors to promote the modernization of the automobile maintenance industry.

Yan Fengmin believes that it is necessary to develop the field of digital services around improving service quality and industrial value, and realize the comprehensive digitalization of maintenance, fault monitoring and early warning, rescue support, inquiry and consultation, care and reminder as soon as possible.

"The healthy development of the automotive aftermarket is crucial to the continuous expansion of automobile consumption, especially in the new energy vehicle market." Yan Fengmin stressed to reporters that promoting digital governance that adapts to the characteristics of post-market development can speak with data, making it easier for upstream and downstream enterprises to reach consensus, and at the same time making business decisions more scientific. More importantly, digitalization can ensure the openness and transparency of the automotive aftermarket, which is conducive to protecting consumers' right to know and choice.

After all, only by providing consumers with safer, smarter and more transparent repair and maintenance services can they be free from worries when buying a car and release more consumption vitality with confidence.

China Youth Daily, China Youth Network reporter Xu Yajie Source: China Youth Daily