Electric Vehicle Update

I am working on this article in March in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak. I hope that by the time this reaches you, things have gotten better. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your families as they always are, and as such, I promised to give an electric car update in the spring, so here it is. I hope you find it useful.

If you’ve read my other electric vehicle updates, you know that I do not mean for this to be an ad for EVs. But since I work for a salvage auction, we tend to see new vehicles as soon as they are offered to the public and make their way to the roads. As we all know, the cars people drive are the cars people wreck, and some of the vehicles even get damaged on the way to the dealership before they’re sold.

Is It Really a Big Deal?
I’m seeing all these articles about new electric and hybrid vehicles coming out, but the actual EVs are still sparse on my daily commute. So I decided to do a little research. I went to our Copart.com website and pulled up all vehicles and then started filtering to see what I could see. This data is from the beginning of February.

First, I pulled all vehicles of all types and years and narrowed it down to hybrid/electric automobiles. I ran a quick calculation and found that they were 2.7% of our inventory. Not all that exciting. Maybe if I filter down by year? I tried 2017 and newer, and electrics and hybrids made up 3.7% of that batch. At last, I tried only 2020 automobiles and found the “aha!” I was looking for. I knew it was in there somewhere. Hybrids and electrics made up 5.6% of our 2020 inventory.

That means 5 or 6 out of every 100 automobiles coming into our yards from the 2020 model year is a hybrid or electric vehicle. Of course, it costs more to repair EVs than internal combustion engine cars according to Mitchell industry data, even if you remove expensive Teslas from the calculations. But skewed repair stats don’t change the fact that those cars are in our yards and being auctioned every day.

By the way, you can try this filtering on your own anytime you like. Just click on the search magnifying glass at the top of our website and then use the filters on the left to narrow down to what you’d like to measure. Volumes will fluctuate over time as auctions run, but you’ll still get a good idea of what is coming across the block.

What About Low Gas Prices?
As I write this article, gas prices have dropped to the level they were at when I graduated high school in 2003. If gas prices are lower, you might think that interest in electric vehicles would decline just as rapidly. Here’s the thing though – it takes a long time for a big ship like an auto manufacturer to change course. If they were rapidly ramping up electric vehicle efforts in February, that’s not going to change anytime soon. I won’t get into the environmental argument here, but I remember from my college economics 101 class that it takes awhile to change factors of production and fixed costs when something in the macroeconomic environment changes.

Will people be intrigued enough to try the upcoming electric Hummer or Mustang crossover Mach-E when these vehicles hit showrooms? I think they will be. They’ll at least kick the tires, do a test-drive or a rental car or a lease. My marketing background tells me automakers will be heavily advertising these EVs when they arrive, and people like to check out what they’ve seen on TV.

There are also new manufacturers on the scene that are dedicated to producing EVs. It sounds weird to say it, but Tesla is now old news. What about Rivian, Workhorse, Karma and others?

Opportunity or Threat?
Will new EV cars and trucks turn out to be an opportunity or a threat? I think it will follow the same rules these things always do, which means it depends on each of us to decide. We can either ignore the changes and hope things go back to the way they were, or we can take charge and turn the changes into an opportunity for the future.

Yes, things are changing. Yes, it’s going to be a challenge. But if we team up to share our knowledge and expertise, we can all climb this hill together.

Amanda Zmolek is the industry relations analyst for Copart, an online vehicle auction with more than 150,000 salvage and clean title vehicles available to bid on each day. She started her career with GreenLeaf Auto Recyclers in 2006 and has a marketing degree from San Diego State and a marketing MBA from UT Arlington. Amanda joined Copart in 2015 and is proud to serve as the Copart account representative for auto recyclers. Contact Amanda at 972-391-5759 or amanda.zmolek@copart.com.