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Automatic Industry Leaders Review

October 11, 2010
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Carwash helps drivers travel clean
By Chris Reach, Managing Editor

It s not always easy to capture the attention of the everyday motorist, unless a carwash has just the right recipe to supply the area s demand for riding in a clean car.

In Lees Summit, MO, Spencer Gregg and his business partner Brian Piercy have found that the right location, premium signage and the combination of automatic exterior-only washing with self-service wand bays can result in some impressive customer numbers.

Adding a tunnel
The Travel Clean Carwash has been in operation for roughly four years now, covering about 2.5 acres of the total four acres of property the businessmen own.

The business started out as a self-serve, and then an express tunnel was opened on the site after establishing the name in the area.

Last year, Travel Clean saw approximately 180,000 cars ride the conveyor, with a goal for 200,000 vehicles in 2005.

Lees Summit gets a lot of traffic from neighboring cities like Kansas City, but the majority of customers pass the facility to and from such nearby highways as state highway 291 and Interstate 470.

According to Piercy, the color scheme of the carwash, large signage and the architectural style of the building help capture the eyes of the motorists, making it impossible not to be noticed.

We re very meticulous about the final product, and hope to keep a consistency to the washing that we feel keeps customers coming back,  Piercy said.

Dealing with problems
So, how can one location best use their workers to keep up with such a high volume?

Most of the time, the organization of cars coming and going on the conveyor is simply controlled by employees serving three key positions at Travel Clean:

  1. A cashier controls the queue and the exchange of money for automatic customers.
  2. A maintenance person is on duty at all times and ess-entially acts as the manager.
  3. A line person helps guide cars onto the conveyor and paces the traffic flow.

According to Gregg, the best thing about their carwash is that drivers can come to their site and get their car washed any way they want, with the exception of a full detail.

Aside from utilizing a 185  tunnel, customers can wash their cars themselves in one of the five self-serve bays, or even use the touch-free in-bay automatic at Travel Clean.

The duel express
Gregg and Piercy have seen such a great response to their first carwash business, the partners are currently in the building/permitting stage for their second carwash, estimated to open by December of 2006.

The wash, which will operate in Overland Park, KS, will feature two side-by-side tunnels and self-serve bays for customers.

Old-time carwash battles newfound foes
By Lindsey Blanchfield, Assistant Managing Editor

Kurt Koziol, owner of Koziol Carwash and Four Seasons Carwash in Chicago, has found that despite his over 30 years of carwashing experience, new road blocks can and do still pop-up.

When Koziol first made the transition from the vending business to carwashing his critics gave him six months to flop. Decades later Koziol has proven that a tough mentality and dedicated work ethic can get a person through almost anything.

The people around him
If Koziol had to pinpoint one secret behind his success, he said that he has to credit his employees for his wash’s longevity.

According to Koziol, both of his locations have a fair amount of long-term employees; between both sites he said he employs around 25-30 people.

Employees tend to stick around Koziol’s sites because of the profit sharing program he’s put in place. The plan, which has been in effect since 1988, is wholly funded by the company.

Although Koziol’s employees have been positive people in his business, the community and people that surround Koziol’s wash have been a source of uncertainty.

According to Koziol, in the last five to eight years the neighborhood’s demographics have changed dramatically. The community turned over, with many older citizens gone, replaced by younger residents who don’t have a disposable income.

“For the older residents, their housing was paid for, so they had more of a disposable income,” Koziol said. “A trip to the carwash was something of an event for them.”

Working within boundaries
Surviving and thriving for over 30 years was no small feat when the carwash market around Koziol began to change, but his small site could not.

Koziol’s site offers a full-service carwash and a 10-minute oil change, but rests on only 17,000-square-feet of land.

“Trying to put up a new facility on one of these older locations is difficult,” Koziol said. “Carwashing has changed a lot and newcomers are looking at properties with 80,000-square-feet.”

Koziol updated his facilities as best he could. He replaced some equipment and renovated the interior to keep it looking as fresh as the newer washes in the industry.

Tough market
As if all of these road blocks weren’t enough, recently Koziol had to face one more: the proliferation of hand washes in the Chicago market.

According to Koziol, the simplicity with which a hand wash can obtain a permit has made the number of new facilities skyrocket. An operator who wants to build a tunnel wash faces a multitude of limitations and restrictions, however, a hand wash doesn’t have to meet many zoning or sewer requirements.

Therefore, Koziol said that these new hand washes are opening up and offering early bird specials for $5 or $6 and tearing customers away from his sites.

A terrific tunnel
By Chris Starace, News Editor

Brad Marlin, owner of Marlin’s Car Wash, Santa Clara, CA, opened his establishment in 1998 after putting over a million dollars into an abandoned wash.

Now his new full-service carwash, standing on a 10,000-square-foot property, is equipped with a conveyer that is 205’ long, 160’ of which can be viewed from inside the carwash.

“When we took over the old carwash, the facility had an existing canopy that was 200’ long,” Marlin said. “At first we were going to cut the canopy back, but decided to build the conveyor under it.”

The conveyor
When a consumer’s car enters the conveyor, it immediately receives a wet down and a coat of low pH soap.

Then the vehicle travels through two mitter curtains before getting a coating of high pH soap.

After receiving the second coat of soap, the car goes through two wraps that are designed to wash the front, side and rear of the car, before it is met by another curtain and a set of Belanger 2x2’s which apply “NEO-TEX” foam to the vehicle.

The next step, if added onto the wash package, is a coat of foaming polish wax, along with the tires being cleaned by wheel blasters.

The last piece of wash equipment the car goes through on the conveyor is a set of washers that clean the sides of the car.

After being washed, the car goes through a three stage rinse process and travels 30 more feet through five 15 horse power dryers.

Competitive area
Marlin’s Car Wash has eight competitors in the area, including one that is only one block away, so its 205’ conveyor speeds things along allowing up to 11 cars on it at one time, giving customers a good reason to return.

“From start to finish, a car goes through the wash in four to five minutes and there is very rarely ever a wait of more than 20 minutes,” Marlin said.

In 2004, Marlin’s Car Wash in Santa Clara washed 121,000 cars and on its busiest day washed 1,021.

Listening to customers really pays off
By Devon Geraghty, Assistant Editor

Clark D. Porter, president and general manager of Great American Carwash located in Severna Park, MD, has been in the carwash business for 12 years.

In those 12 years, Porter has been able to raise his top price from $14 in 1993 to the current price of $27, while still managing to increase the volume of cars.

Striving for more
Although a portion of the price increase can be attributed to inflation, most of it was deliberate.

“While most owners and operators compare volume, we are mostly focused on the bottom line,” Porter explained.

“We are not advertisers or discounters,” he added. “We are never satisfied with our accomplishments and always seek out a better way to improve service that always results in an improved bottom line. You could say we are an endless self-experiment.”

This endless self-experiment has paved the way for his success.

With improvements in equipment, package items and a loyal team of employees, in the past two years, Porter’s bottom line has increased by nearly $200,000 and his volume has steadily increased by 5,000 cars.

Worth the money
How did Porter achieve such a high volume of cars and still maintain great service? His answers came in the form of customer surveys.

Porter explained that many suggestions about new services, as well as improved equipment came from his customers. He has learned that although he might have to increase his prices in order to offer new services, his customers don’t mind.

They want to receive superior service, as well as the services they desire for their car, and are willing to pay a few extra bucks for them.

These few extra dollars are not added on to the price without good reason. Porter explained that time is money in the carwash business.

“Our prices are based on the time required to perform that service,” Porter said.

Although the staff takes their time with each service, they do so in an efficient manner, which still allows for a huge volume of cars to be serviced.

“Do not discount a customer request no matter how ridiculous it may sound,” Porter said. This is how Porter and his fellow employees continue to improve business and keep a consistent volume of cars coming in every day.

Porter and his loyal team of employees continue to change and cultivate their business in order to appease customers. They are looking forward to a future filled with endless possibilities for full-service carwashing.