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Bringing detailers together

October 11, 2010
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R.L. “Bud” Abraham is president of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems, of Portland, OR; a member of the Western Carwash Association Board of Directors; and executive director of the International Detailing Association (IDA). Professional Carwashing & Detailing recently talked to Bud about his involvement with the IDA, which right now has 100 members.

Professional Carwashing & Detailing: When and how was the International Detailing Association formed?

Bud Abraham: The International Detailing Association (IDA) is the result of an effort by several detail suppliers to resurrect the Professional Detailing Association (PDA). The PDA was an outgrowth of a meeting that took place in Rosemont, IL, at an International Carwash Association Show in 1989, by a group of leading detail suppliers who met to determine if a detailing association should and could be formed.

The PDA was registered as a non-profit organization; a board of directors and officers were elected; and initially, I was appointed as interim executive director. By 1994, the association was in full swing. They had an permanent professional executive director; 500 members; published a quarterly magazine, Detailer; a monthly newsletter, Detail Dialogue; conducted 20 nationwide detailing seminars in every region of the country and had an arrangement with the ICA where they sponsored a Detailing Pavilion for which the PDA received a percentage of the space fees.

In 1995, the PDA accepted an invitation to merge with the ICA. This did not turn out to be a good mix. As a result, the PDA eventually was dissolved.

Then about a year and a half ago, a group of suppliers got together again to see if there was a need to resurrect the detailing association again. Taking the same approach as in 1989, this group of detail suppliers came together as a committee and a movement was started to re-establish a detailing association.

The IDA is officially registered as a non-profit corporation with bylaws and is a functioning and legal trade association. A board of directors was elected and they selected the slate of officers for the year and is now developing and implementing the plan for 2009.

PC&D: What is the current goal of the IDA?

BA: The goal is to try to professionalize the detail industry to the degree that it becomes a recognized and legitimate auto service. If that happens, then everyone benefits. Ultimately, everyone wants to have the industry recognized by the motorist as a needed regular auto service.

PC&D: How will the IDA achieve this goal?

BA: One of the first things we have to do is convince suppliers and detailers of the advantages and benefits of belonging to the IDA. If we don’t have members, we can’t begin to achieve any goals. And we have to attract people in the industry who share the same vision that we have, a long term view, to see the industry grow, and professionalize and become legitimate.

A major goal is to develop a detail certification program, which would certify detailers as having a certain level of competency. We feel this will help and be a major step towards creating professionalism. We’re trying to provide educational seminars all over the country.

PC&D: Has the current state of the economy affected the detailing industry?

BA: Absolutely, detailing is a luxury purchase for the consumer and during these times, many consumers cut back on luxury purchases. Even those who can afford the expenditure put off detailing a little longer to be frugal with their money. And, for those detail operations doing dealer work the market is suffering because the auto industry is devastated by the economic problems in the U.S. today. Cars are not being sold, so when you don’t sell cars there are no used cars to detail.

PC&D: What advice do you have for detailer owners who are hurting right now financially?

BA: As with any small business you have to cut costs, but more importantly you cannot do the same things you have always done, getting what you have always got, because “what you have always got” is no longer there. You have to think creatively and find new markets: Boats, airplanes, RV’s; motorcycles; agricultural equipment; etc. You have to be creative in your marketing to get existing customers to come in for detailing services. Create in their mind a need for the service.