The current standard of economy/good/better/best for replacement automotive batteries may change due to the demands of modern vehicles.
One-size-fits-all doesn’t always work. Consumers have their own budgets to follow and individual standards for selecting goods and services. Retailers want to provide those options for their customers, and battery manufacturers want to ensure those options are available.
Traditional Buying Process
It’s common in any retail environment to provide customers with options at a variety of price points. The current standard for replacement batteries is a tier system of economy/good/better/best.
The levels are determined by price, warranty and performance. As consumers move up the ladder from economy to best, the price of the battery increases at each step.
Along with those price increases, the months of free replacement warranty also go up. Economy units may offer only a 90-day warranty, a “good” battery may have a 12-month warranty, while a battery in the “best” category would have a 36-month warranty.
Cold Cranking Amps (CCA) Cranking Amps have been the industry standard rating for automotive battery performance. CCA measures the number of Amps that a new, fully charged battery can provide at 0º F for 30 seconds before dropping below 7.2 Volts of charge.
The higher the CCA, the more powerful the battery. Batteries in the “best” category typically have a higher rating than those in the economy and “good” levels.
However, there is a change coming in the marketplace where CCA could no longer be the primary determining factor of which battery is right for any given consumer in any given vehicle application. Increased electrical demands in modern vehicles is driving the industry to look at battery performance metrics in a new way.
Challenging the Industry Standards
Many modern vehicles with advanced entertainment and safety features will, at times, use power at a rate that is higher than the engine can recharge the battery via the alternator. Many new vehicles may also have off-key power demands that put additional strain on the batteries. This means that the battery is constantly “cycling” between a full and partial state of charge.
Newer battery technologies, such as Enhanced Flooded Batteries (EFB) and Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM), are better suited than traditional flooded batteries to meet the demands of today’s vehicles. EFB and AGM designs focus more on cycling and Reserve Capacity, which measures the length of time the battery will provide power at a set usage rate and Amp-Hours (AH) measures the max power usage rate for a set time.
Over the last several years, vehicles have been coming from the original equipment manufacturers (OEM) fitted for EFB or AGM. Where previously EFB or AGM may have been an “upsell,” replacement battery selections are no longer solely determined by consumer choice but are dictated by the vehicle’s specifications. In order to maximize the performance of their vehicles, and those advanced features, consumers should not settle for a “good” battery when the car’s specifications dictate one in the “best” category.
As more vehicles come standard with EFB or AGM, the good/better/best system should be re-imagined. The demands of modern vehicles dictate a replacement battery from the “best” or even “premium” levels.
Warranty may no longer be a differentiating factor in battery selection, as “premium” batteries tend to have similar warranty terms. Additionally, CCA is not necessarily the best standard measure of performance as reserve capacity and cycling capability move to the forefront. Greater emphasis should be placed on how those performance standards meet the OEM requirements.
Market Shifts Impact Battery Offerings
Advancements in vehicle technology have created additional complexity in the depth and breadth of the battery choices that retailers must offer their customers. Category management services are more important than ever to ensure the right products are on the shelves for any given market. It is simply not feasible to offer every group size available at every price point.
An analysis of the vehicle population for the retailer’s locations can help determine the types of batteries that are appropriate for that specific market. With this framework, the retailer can be assured that they are carrying the right stock in the right place at the right time to drive sales velocity and satisfy their customers’ needs.