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Business Operations

News from the industry

October 11, 2010
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Autobell opens its 50th location
Autobell Car Wash, Inc., America’s third largest conveyor carwash chain, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, has opened its 50th location in Harrisburg, NC.

It is the first company location in Harrisburg. The chain also has sites in South Carolina and Virginia.

Autobell President and CEO Chuck Howard said, “We are thrilled to be celebrating longevity and continued growth with the opening of our 50th store. We feel it is a testament to offering consistently excellent customer service and emphasizing good corporate citizenship in all our communities.”

Carlyle Group wants to sell carwashes; expand
It looks as though private equity house Carlyle Group is heading for a showdown with debt investors of Imo, the world’s biggest carwash company, after the Carlyle revealed plans to dispose of the group’s property assets to raise more money.

Imo currently owns 900 carwash sites in 14 countries that wash over 34 million vehicles each year. In the UK, Imo has 300 sites trading as Arc Clean Car Centres. The next biggest presence is in Germany where it has 335 locations, with the remaining sites spread across 12 other countries. Carlyle bought the group in 2006 from JP Morgan Partners.

Carlyle has in recent weeks asked the debt investors of Imo to approve of a sale and lease back of carwash sites that would raise over $118 million. The debt investors are concerned about the proposals since the property is the main collateral for their investment.

Carlyle wants to raise the additional money to fund an expansion plan of new carwash sites across Europe. The company had a tough time in 2007 after poor weather affected trading.

This year the group says business has been strong. Even so, Carlyle wants to build more sites to ensure a wider market area but needs additional funding

NC to certify carwashes
As drought restrictions ease across the state, the North Carolina Professional Carwash Association is prepared to start certifying carwashes that reduce the use of fresh water by 20 percent per vehicle.

The association’s new program will be in effect on a year-round basis, but only enforced during periods of “exceptional” drought. A licensed plumber will determine which carwashes qualify for certification.

Association President Dale Reynolds said, “This association is proud of the conservation efforts of its members and will continue its efforts to protect our water resources and the environment. We encourage all citizens and businesses to use water wisely and to save water while protecting the environment by using a professional carwash.”

Truck wash industry deals with slow down
Washing big trucks means big profits, but lately the trucking industry has been slowing down, meaning truck washes are seeing less business.

Johnson Petroleum Inc., doing business as Ray’s Truck Wash in Fort Wayne, IN, rakes in an annual revenue of $5 million to $6 million. The company sells fuel and washes tractor-trailer trucks. In addition to washing the exterior of trucks, the company also cleans the interiors of refrigerated trucks and tankers.

The 35-year old company has 15 full-time employees, although staying afloat these days is difficult. Manager Neal Burpee said he was impressed the company is still in business after 2007 caused some setbacks. He said skyrocketing fuel costs is the company’s biggest challenge. Since January, the cost of diesel has increased more than $1 a gallon, taking a toll on the finances of independent truckers.

CA greenhouse laws could affect carwashes
The state Air Resources Board’s latest proposal to restrict greenhouse gas emissions and volatile organic compounds could affect carwashes in this state by restricting home carwash products.

Some office and household cleaning products, such as air fresheners, carwash products and fabric softeners, would be banned or have to be reformulated to fall in line with the new rules.

Home carwash products would have to limit volatile organic compounds. Tire cleaners, windshield water repellents and odor removers would also have to comply.

The air board’s proposal is the first regulation in the United States that would restrict greenhouse gas emissions from consumer products.

“This is precedent-setting,” said Joe Yost, director of strategic issues advocacy for the Consumer Specialty Products Association in Washington, D.C. “It’s important they get it right.” The measures would take effect in 2010 or later.

Jeep incident sends four to hospital
A carwash employee who was unable to stop a Jeep Cherokee after it had been washed caused a chain-reaction crash involving three customers, another worker, a customer’s car and an electrical transformer that exploded in flames.

The fire burned customers’ cars at Olson’s Hand Car Wash in Encinitas, CA and also knocked out power to 54 area customers. Four people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries and the Jeep was destroyed.

The employee was unable to stop the Jeep and struck a woman standing near the tip jar stand, a carwash worker, a driver about to get into a clean Honda Civic, then struck the Honda’s back bumper. The Honda bumped a person who was ready to get into the passenger’s side.

The force of the crash sent the Honda spinning across the parking area, and it hit the transformer. The transformer burst into flames, which spread to the vehicles. The Jeep also hit a guardrail, which broke and struck a parked Mercedes Benz.

This is the fifth reported incident involving a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Cherokee in 2008. Earlier accidents were reported in Delaware, New York, Illinois and Canada.

Mace subsidiary pleads guilty to conspiracy
Car Care, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mace Security International Inc., and three of its managers have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government, harbor illegal immigrants and commit identity theft.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing has been following this story since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement first arrested illegal workers in 2006. Managers of the carwash company operated a scheme between 2000 and March 2006 that allowed the washes to hire illegal workers by giving them false names and a way to cash their checks at local banks without identification.

Mace, formerly among the largest conveyor carwash operators in the nation, has since sold the carwashes, which were in Bryn Mawr, Flourtown, Norristown and Cherry Hill, NJ.

Car Care was ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and to forfeit $500,000 to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Three Car Care managers have pleaded guilty but have not been sentenced. They face a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release.

Waterless carwash company plans to rollout U.S. franchise
Ecowash mobile, an Australian waterless carwash company, has partnered with unnamed U.S. franchising experts in preparation of rolling out its franchise program in the United States. The company has set up headquarters in Carlsbad, CA, and sold master franchises in Miami and Las Vegas. It is also registered as a franchise opportunity in every U.S. state.

Founded in 2004, ecowash specializes in mobile carwash services using a polymer lubricant formula that, according to the company, “lifts the dirt from the surface of the paint” and encapsulates it. Franchises are already set up in 85 locations in Australia, France, Greece, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Ecowash has already landed several high-profile accounts, including cleaning all the Audis on display at the Cannes Film Festival and working with Lamborghini in Las Vegas throughout its 15-day launch event for the new Lamborghini Gallardo.