New Automotive World: The Global Vehicle Powertrain Revolution

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Brian Daugherty, Chief Technology Officer, Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA)

As we approach AAPEX 2019, we are witnessing a global vehicle powertrain revolution unlike anything previously seen. More than $300 billion in electrification investments have been announced by automotive OEMs around the world to make their fleets more fuel efficient in order to comply with increasingly stringent fuel economy regulations. As a result, we will begin seeing many more hybrids and full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the next few years.

While the future growth rate of BEVs is the subject of many forecasts and much debate, powertrains are changing and the impact on the automotive aftermarket will eventually be significant. It is my belief that we’ll see rapid growth in global hybrid volumes as OEMs work to meet the regulatory demands for fuel economy improvement.

However, BEV volumes in the near term will most likely continue to grow at a steady rate rather than a sharp “S-type” curve due to the cost differential versus internal combustion engines or hybrids along with uncertain consumer acceptance. Globally, the countries with the highest BEV sales per capita either have very large incentives or – as in the case of Norway and China – they have large disincentives (taxes and registration fees) on gasoline and diesel vehicles.

As the percentage of vehicles containing integral high voltage systems increases and they make their way into repair shops, the aftermarket will need to be prepared with the proper diagnostic equipment, parts and trained personnel. In addition, many vehicles are beginning to come on the market with stop-start as well as 48-volt mild hybrid systems. These vehicles will also require newly designed replacement parts and specialized training.

Vehicle safety system and automation developments also continue to progress rapidly. Many Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are rapidly becoming standard equipment on new vehicles. With OEMs working to add Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) on almost all U.S. cars by 2022 and light trucks and SUVs by 2025, more radar and camera-based technology will soon be on vehicles than ever before.

Aftermarket ADAS systems – primarily camera-based – are becoming increasingly available and sales of these systems will continue to grow as consumers see the safety benefits on new model vehicles.

Automated vehicles are still very much in the development phase as the leading robo-taxi developers try to figure out how to remove their safety drivers. As ADAS and automated vehicle systems become more prevalent, the complexity of their replacement parts will require more engineering and development. In addition, the repair of these vehicles will continue the trend toward more specialized equipment including radar and camera targets for system alignment and calibration. Many of the newest systems have the ability to “self-calibrate” and therefore require less precision alignment than the last generation of cameras and sensors.

While all of these technological changes can be viewed as threats to the status quo, part manufacturers and service shops that address these new vehicle systems will be the aftermarket industry leaders.

The aftermarket parts industry can take advantage of these technology changes by becoming more adept at developing complex replacement parts, providing training in areas such as electrification and advanced safety systems, and hiring new employees, especially in areas of strategic technology development.

Remember, cybersecurity will continue to be an overarching concern with advanced technology vehicles. As the industry locks down future vehicles using new secure-by-design architectures, we need to ensure that the aftermarket continues to have access to vehicle data. Due to security concerns, the OBD-II port will provide less and less useful information. The port won’t disappear completely since it is required for emissions-related data, but much of the current OEM CAN bus data, diagnostic trouble codes and ECU programming access will move to new proprietary (and probably wireless) data links. The aftermarket needs to get involved in the development of new standards and methods that protect vehicles from cyberattack as well as allowing legitimate access.

AAPEX 2019, co-owned by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), MEMA’s light vehicle aftermarket division, and the Auto Care Association, will present education, demonstrations and displays that highlight technology advancements. This unique industry event has many opportunities to experience Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), ADAS calibration, telematics, predictive analytics, advanced repair shop diagnostics, autonomous driving applications and more. We look forward to seeing you there!

To learn more and register for AAPEX, visit