16 Nov 22

CARA delivers on battery health check

CARA, the European Car Remarketing Association, is getting rid of the yellow stars in its logo. They’re turning white, to avoid any confusion with (and litigation from) the European Union. “It had to be done, but I’d rather focus on more important things,” said CARA president Wolfgang Reinhold (pictured). Fortunately, the rest of the CARA General Assembly indeed was a lot more substantial. With plenty of good news to report, notably on CARA’s battery health initiative. 

CARA’s GA took place in Dublin on Tuesday, as traditional one day ahead of the Fleet Europe Remarketing Forum. The association is the dedicated defender and promotor of the interests of car remarketing at European level, so the GA is a good way to get the inside view on what’s cooking in the industry.

Hitting its stride

So, what is cooking? A strange mix of hot and cold. On the one side, as Mr Reinhold acknowledged, “business is tough, market conditions are tough”, and will remain so for a while yet. But CARA itself is hitting its stride, and is delivering on a key “deliverable” – State of Health (SoH) of EV batteries, for which CARA will roll out an independent certification process before the end of the year. 

But that was not all. One of CARA’s long-standing ambitions is to get the ear of the EU’s decision-making circles. Which is why CARA joined Leaseurope. “You would have to study five years to understand the intricacies of the EU,” joked Mr. Reinhold. “Our membership of Leaseurope, who know their way around Brussels, provide us with much easier access.”

Consumer trust

After which the meeting dived straight into the deliverables, beginning with Roland Gagel (CARA board member and TÜV Süd) and Markus Gregor (TÜV Süd), who detailed the complex but rewarding year-long trajectory towards SoH certification. 

Battery health is key to determine the value of a used EV. But who does the consumer trust to provide information? CARA’s aim was to establish an independent method of certification. Such a certificate would increase consumer confidence, making it easier – not to mention more profitable – to remarket EVs.

After careful consideration of what is and what will soon be possible, the CARA working group struck upon a two-tiered approach: rolling out a basic solution in 2023, based on a readout of the EV battery; and working towards a premium solution, which will establish an OEM-independent value from 2024. 

Making a difference

CARA sets the parameters for the standardization of battery health evaluation, and will certify interested parties – CARA members or not – to carry out the SoH tests. “CARA will not profit from this. Nobody will be forced to use this. But nothing like this exists on the market yet”, said Mr Gagel. 

There already is a lot of interest in the ‘Certified by CARA’ formula: “Even the BVRLA in the UK has said that they are considering endorsing it. If by this time next year this scheme is up and running, we’ll have really made a difference.”

Bolognese sauce

Other deliverables on the agenda:

  • In-Car Data. CARA has published a nuanced position paper on who should be able to use in-car data. In essence: the car owner should also own the in-car data. OEMs stick to their view that they own the data. CARA found approval for its paper from various associations, and was heard by the relevant EU authority. “They will publish their own position paper in April next year. It will most likely end up somewhere between our view and that of the OEMs”, said Dirk-Marco Adams. To be continued.
  • CARA Academy. “We had extremely good feedback, but we didn’t get the volume result we wanted”, said Johan Verbois. CARA is going to rethink how they can offer educational sessions to professionals who want it. External partners are an option that’s being pursued. “We still believe the idea is valid, and that it’s worth developing.”
  • Market View. CARA has started publishing bi-annual market views tailored to the remarketing industry. “Two editions were published in 2022, a next one is scheduled for the beginning of next year,” said Svenja Vloeberghs. “But we want to liven up the formula.” She immediately found four volunteers to staff a working group. 
  • Fair Wear and Tear. “I developed an FW&T guide 30 years ago, and I still think it’s the best thing I ever did”, said Mr Reinhold. CARA has made a similar effort, but as the lively discussion in the GA demonstrated, there is a wide range of opinion on its applicability. “These guides are like Bolognese sauce”, said Bertrand Donck. “Everybody uses the same ingredients, but still everyone has their very one recipe.” The GA did agree that, in the end, transparency pays. Further options will be pursued.

Chinese invasion

The GA closed with a number of presentations, first by Julian de Groot from Dataforce, who provided a market update and some insight in the evolution of EVs on the used-car market. Interesting tidbit from the former: “While the total new-car market in Europe shrank by about 10% in the first nine months of this year compared to 2021, the True Fleet market only lost about 3% - because in the end, fleets simply do need to get new cars.” And remarkable finding from the latter: “When asked what their ideal range for an EV would be, private consumers say 370 km, while user/choosers say 490 km. That’s a remarkable difference – and quite a lot.”

Returning to the podium, Dirk-Marco Adams sketched the seeming inevitability of a Chinese invasion on the European car market. Established brands are coasting on higher revenue per vehicle, and many seem content to abandon the lower-price ranges to newcomers, from China and elsewhere. “Residual values of these new brands are on average 18% lower than those of established ones, but some are ramping up fast – Polestar is a notable example.”

New members

The meeting closed with short presentations of two new CARA members. LKQ, “the largest auto recycler in the world, and the largest vehicle parts distributor in Europe”, said Benedict Beeker; and Auto1.com, “the leader in digitizing the €700-billion used-car industry in Europe”, according to Jost Dieckhaus. 

CARA is experiencing steady growth, with nine new members in 2022 and now a total of 38 full members and two supporting ones. Mr Reinhold is aiming for ‘”five to ten” new members next year. With close to 50 attendees, this was the largest CARA GA so far, by the way. “We must be doing something right”, said one of the audience members. 

Image: Benjamin Brolet

Authored by: Frank Jacobs