Electric vehicles are not currently affecting Couche-Tard’s fuel business overall, and Hannasch does not expect they will hurt demand in the next five to 10 years.
“We do believe there will be a flattening of fuel demand in the next five years, and that's consistent with what we hear from our fuel suppliers,” he said, adding it will be driven mostly by tougher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that are increasing the fuel efficiency of vehicles.
While liquid fuel “will be very relevant to us for a long period of time,” the retailer will continue to track EV market development. Beyond that, Hannasch expects growth in fuel will continue to be a matter of grabbing market share, rather than benefiting from an overall increase in fuel demand.
“[There are] a lot of low-volume sites in the industry both in Canada and in the U.S., and those sites are pressured over time from a lot of different fronts that demand will be redistributed,” he said. “The higher-quartile, high-quality assets and those players with a strong backcourt are going to be the ones that win in that environment.”
Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard's network includes 9,424 c-stores in North America, including 8,077 stores selling motor fuel. Brands include Circle K, Couche-Tard, Corner Store, The Pantry, Nice N Easy, Flash Foods and Holiday. Couche-Tard ranked No. 2 in CSP's 2017 Top 202 list of the largest c-store chains in the United States.