Open Road

The greening of the automotive industry

Years ago the automotive industry was inundated with cash. Nowadays the industry picture is not as rosy. Profit margins have been tightening as operating costs have been rising. This has forced the industry to look at every expense more closely to identify spending trends for areas of improvement, while at the same time rolling out other programs such as environmental initiatives. In many cases the industry greening and the cost savings initiatives have gone hand in hand. This has happened industry wide –manufacturers, dealers, body shops, and on to even the very infrastructure the automotive consumers use daily.

It is now not an uncommon practice for manufacturers to identify a previously wasted product as a potential profit center. For example, in the past, if a production piece was damaged the part would have been discarded. Nowadays that same damaged piece can be removed from the regular production line and then refurbished for sale to the public as an aftermarket piece. So, in this example the manufacturers have identified a potential waste area and rolled out recycling programs that create revenue.

The same eye to recouping costs is applicable at the dealer level as well. Dealerships have been looking at their bills and identifying areas of the facility where they struggle and then developing ways to turn the burn while at the same time lowering their carbon footprint. In fact, an Energy Star program was rolled out by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) with help from the NADA (National Automotive Dealers Association) for automotive dealerships that encourages dealers to do just that.

One area easily identifiable by dealers of significant operating cost is lighting. It's a huge expense for dealerships. Those tall lamp posts with blinding lights don't come cheap. So, it is only natural for lighting to quickly be identified for cost reductions along with capturing other potential energy efficiencies within the dealership along the way. To that end many dealerships are switching to LED lighting, automated lighting, and also adding flushless urinals, updating car washes to recycle high percentages of water, and even installing solar and/or geothermal energy systems.

It doesn't end there either. The auto body world has also seen its fair share of greening and related cost savings. Switching to waterborne paints reduces carbon footprint and dry time for vehicles. So, more cars can get shuffled through paint booths faster yielding more money faster for the owner.

There are other avenues for the energy usage improvement and reduced costs that can be actualized through infrastructure improvements as well. For example, municipalities are looking at fuel cell and electric options for their ageing bus fleets. Albuquerque just announced that it would update a portion of its fleet with electric buses. In Missouri portions of Route 66 will be updated to harness solar power. That power will then be use by the nearby rest stops.

Shouldering the responsibilities of Identifying cost improvement areas and taking on green initiatives is hard work. There's lots of forms to fill out and technologies to learn. But, the hard work is proving to be a valuable in-sync process for the industry as a whole. While businesses and municipalities are seeing improvements to their bottom line, the same effort is reducing carbon foot prints. This resulting shift in business strategy is leaving better air for each of us and more environmentally friendly mindsets for business owners and communities – a win for forward thinkers.

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