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Detailing

Detailing around the world

April 25, 2012
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In last month's segment we discussed detailing primarily in the Western Hemisphere: Canada, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. This month we will discuss Asia, most of Europe and the Middle East with some emphasis on certain countries. To read more about detail operations in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Pacific, please visit www.carwash.com and type in the keywords: Detailing around the world.

ASIA

Without a doubt this is a very huge area of the world and there is a viable detailing industry in almost every country. While I have never traveled to Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), I do know something of detailing in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, India and Sir Lanka.

Japan has a very sophisticated detail industry and, in fact, has its own association, the Japan Car Detailing Association, with thousands of members. A typical detail shop charges over $500 for just a polish, but it will be perfect when completed. In fact, they tape off a vehicle before buffing to the extent that you would think they are painting the vehicle. While they follow many U.S. methodologies, the Japanese have their own unique ways of doing some things. Body clay, for example, was invented and first used in Japan before it was discovered by the Auto Wax Company and brought to the U.S. The guru of Japanese detailing is a man named Mr. H. Kodate, the president of Joy Bond, the most respected distributor of detailing products in Japan.

Korea is a very advanced country, but the detail market is not as far along as other Asian countries. Until the early 1990s there were few automatic carwashes, but then the Korean carwash market went through a revolution and hundreds of automatic carwashes were installed throughout the country, and many offered some form of detailing. The seeming leader in the market is rust proofing giant Ziebart.

Taiwan for years has had a respectable auto detailing market with several freestanding shops in the country. In recent years, I have not had any contacts in the market but there are still very active detail operations.

In China, the automobile market is growing at an unbelievable pace, and the detail market, like everything else there, is booming. There are at least four or five chains of car appearance centres that have thousands of locations throughout the country. Most of the major detail chemical companies in the world are represented there. They seem to play it pretty "close to the chest" in providing information about what they are doing, other than what you can cull off the Internet and their websites.

Singapore has long been an active automatic carwash market and has an active auto detailing industry. When I was there in the 1990s, you could find at least 25 freestanding detail operations listed in the Yellow Pages.

With it's proximity to Singapore, Malaysia is greatly influenced by the city-state. Many of the detail operations in Singapore have satellite locations in Kuala Lampur, the major city in the country. From what I can tell, the market there and in other major cities is much like what you find in Singapore.

Indonesia has a number of automatic carwash operations and like most of the other countries in Asia has a growing detail market. Some shops are as advanced as you would find in the U.S. and some are quite primitive.

The island country of the Philippines has always been immensely influenced by the U.S., and one could say the detail business is also a reflection of American influence. The big players there are Ziebart and Tuff-Kote/Dinol — both rust-proofing companies that operate big car care centers. Many shops are privately owned and at the same technological level as what you would find in the U.S. But like so many developing nations they have huge advancements to make.

India is quickly coming into its own industrially speaking. Its car care industry is growing at an unbelievable pace. What you will find in terms of detailing are both large chains of car appearance centres as well as individual entrepreneurs starting mobile operations; waterless wash operations; and mini-chains of detail shops. A very interesting market to watch.

EUROPE

While I have done business with and traveled to Europe since the 1970s, I must admit that while doing research on the detailing market in Western Europe, I was quite surprised at how advanced it was and how many countries have active detailing businesses.

In all honesty, I do not have personal experience in every country directly, but will share what I know in those of which I have direct experience.

Overall, the carwash industry here is very similar to the U.S. market, except that here the carwash industry is oil-company driven. There are private operators in every country, but the oil companies seem to be the key players. As well, there are a great many European carwash equipment manufacturers in countries like the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany and, interestingly, Finland. In spite of that, aggressive U.S. equipment manufacturers are finding a market here, even in countries where there are local manufacturers.

As well, there are numerous manufacturers of detailing products and chemicals in many countries. What you might call the Meguiar's of Europe is a German chemical company called SONAX. As well, the 3M company is also respected in the detail industry. From what I have been able to determine, every major U.S. detailing chemical company and some minor ones are represented throughout Europe.

Overall, the industry parallels the U.S. as the privately-owned carwashes offer some form of detailing, and few oil company-owned washes do. The European industry as a whole is driven by both fixed and mobile operators. What I found very interesting is the number of Internet detail chemical and supply companies "hawking" their wares to the European detail market. There are far more of these Internet companies than I would have ever imagined.

England for some reason seems to lead the European detail industry. While I do not know the exact number of fixed location and mobile detailers in England, I would have to say there are quite a few. And, there are a good number of U.K.-based Internet suppliers too. England also boasts the two "top-detailers" in the world, Paul Dalton of Miracle Detail, and Gurcharn Sahota of Elite Detailing and Protection Ltd. Their claim to fame, so says the Internet and YouTube, is that they are able to charge up to $5,000 per car detail. Dalton is so well known that Swissvax, a Swiss car care chemical manufacturer similar to the U.S. company Zymol, sells "hand-made" waxes for $169.95 to $1,295 and named their top wax Paul Dalton Crystal Rock Wax at the $1,295 a can. You can visit these detailer's websites: www.miracledetail.com and www.elitedetailing.co.uk. There is also a very active detailing forum based in the U.K. called Detailing World (www.detailingworld.com) that has participants from all over the U.K., Europe and the world.

Ireland has its own group of independent fixed location and mobile detailers who are not much different than in the U.S.

Portugal is small country, but it does have an active detail business. At least I have sold products consistently to detailers in Portugal.

France is one of the larger countries in Europe and has both fixed location and mobile detail operations, but there are a number of operations in shopping malls and office buildings. One operation has at least 15 locations in these places.

Holland has a very active carwash business with numerous conveyorized washes being built monthly throughout the country. Many offer some forms of detailing and there are, as well, many independent detail operations.

Belgium has at least one first class detailing operation because our company assisted in the development and equipping of the centre. It was later sold to another detailer who operates it today.

I would have expected Germany to be the leader in auto detailing, but from my experience it is England which has taken the lead in spite of having the "Meguiar's of Germany" SONAX in the country. We do know that Germany has a very active carwash business and there are at least three large carwash chains throughout the country: The famous Mr. Wash owned by Dr. Josef Enning; Clean Car owned by Dr. Pieter Henssen (a protégé' of Dr. Enning); and another chain called Best Wash that I believe was started by the Hanna Carwash Company. These washes all offer some form of detailing probably more on the express detail format. If more research were done on the German market, I believe you would find a very viable, large and active detail industry, but like the U.S., the operators are probably independent and do not have an association, etc.

Greece is a blossoming market for both auto detailing and the carwash business. For years, restrictive import regulations made it impossible to import carwash and auto detailing equipment into Greece, but about 10 years ago things loosened up and the automatic carwash business boomed. And, the detailing business grew along with it. Athens is a typical European city with a lot of cars. Because of the amount of people who smoke, detailing is an awful job thanks to years of tar in the interiors. As soon as the economic situation is straightened out you will see a resurgence of the Greek market for automatic carwashing and auto detailing

Denmark has at least one professional detailing centre in Copenhagen which our company developed almost 15 years ago.

Scandanavia including Sweden, Norway and Finland no doubt has an active detail business, but I know little about these markets having never traveled to any of the countries nor having any customers therein. Although I do know of a company in Oslo, Sweden, that has a very active and viable detailing operation in a shopping mall garage which is called Handz On.

MIDDLE EAST

The Middle East or Near East, depending on who you talk to, has had a very active carwash/detail market for years. In general, the carwash market was opened up in the Middle East area in the 1970s by Hanna Carwash International and to a degree by Sherman Industries from the U.S. Both developed carwash facilities in all of the markets, some more than others, with Hanna the driving force in the area for many years. Detail centres here are called "polishing centres." The Middle East is where I first discovered what came to be known in the 1980s as "auto malls" in the U.S. The concept did not particularly fly in the U.S. for a number of reasons but became a standard operation in many Middle East countries. A developer built a car care centre with automatic carwashing; hand washing; sometimes gasoline; fast lube; detail centre; tires; and sometimes auto repair and owned all the businesses. Interestingly, because of the lack of automatic carwash machinery maintenance, consumers have gravitated to hand washes again. Many of the carwash buildings, if still standing, have been gutted and used as hand washes. Not true in all countries but this is a trend in the area.

Iran is a very modern society. In the 1970s many automatic carwash locations were developed in Tehran, but after 1979 the U.S. involvement in the carwash and detailing business simply died. Today, the U.S. suppliers do not do business there.

Kuwait, while a very small country, has both a very viable hand and automatic carwash and detailing business. For years the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) had the only automatic carwashes in Kuwait, and they washed in excess of 10,000 cars per month. The largest hand carwash in Kuwait is called Safi Carwash and washes over 300 cars per day while offering detailing, oil changes and auto accessories. There are at least five to 10 state-of-the-art detailing centres in the country as well as a number of "back-alley" operations, too.

Saudi Arabia, the largest and richest country in the area, has had a very viable carwash/detail market for years. The first automatic carwashes were built in the early 1970s. As with other countries failure to maintain the equipment has caused the market to revert to handwashing. In the late 1980s a young man studying in Sacramento, CA, saw state-of-the-art detailing centres where he attended school and went back to Jeddah and built a chain of 14 state-of-the-art centres throughout the country. He sold out about the time of the Gulf War in 1990 and many of these stores fell on disrepair and went out of business. Today, another young man has picked up the pieces of the chain and is growing it throughout the country. As well, there are many individually owned hand washes and polishing centres.

Bahrain is a small, oil-rich island country off the coast of Saudi Arabia that has both a viable carwash and auto detailing industry. Just recently our company installed the first state-of-the-art detailing centre in the country, and now all the other centres are contacting us to upgrade their existing centres to this level.

United Arab Emirates is a grouping of several independent emirates that joined together for economic and political benefit. Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi as well as the others are some of the most modern cities in the world. Dubai has the world's tallest building (2,600 feet) and the world's only seven-star hotel. Like other countries in the area, the automatic carwash/detail markets were opened in the early 1970s and followed the same pattern as other countries. The only exception is that the two major oil companies have followed the pattern of U.S. oil companies and developed super gasoline stations with convenience stores and touchless automatic rollovers. There are a number of independently owned and very successful freestanding detail centers.

Qatar has progressed more in 15 years than most countries would have in 50 years. During my first visit there in the early 1990s I saw only two or three automatic carwashes but several freestanding detail shops. Today the number of automatic carwashes has increased along with the number of detailing centers. Doha, the capital city, resembles a mini-Dubai. Great potential there and they are very friendly with the U.S.

Oman has numerous automatic carwash locations; hand washes; and some freestanding detailing centres.

Syria is a very modern and developed country. There are some automatic carwashes and a few polishing centres, but there is not much economic activity between the U.S. and Syria in this field.

Prior to the civil war in the early 1970s, Lebanon was called the Paris of the Middle East. The Lebanese, who are considered great business people, opened up the carwash/detail market in most of the Arab countries in the 1970s. Today they have finally recovered from the war, and many of the carwashes that were built in the 1970s were destroyed. But those that survived are viable and active. Most of the world's major suppliers of detailing chemicals are represented in Lebanon, and the shops are more reflective of what you would see in the U.S. and Europe.

Cyprus is another small island country right off the coast of Lebanon, but it is interestingly divided into the "Greek" side and the "Turkish" side. The Greek side is the most advanced and is like visiting a modern European country. There are numerous automatic carwashes in Greek Cyprus that operate much like an American carwash. The detail industry, with private owners, is pretty much what you would find here and in Europe. Recently our company developed the first state-of-the-art freestanding detailing center in the country, and it is doing very well.

Turkey is a very modern European country. I first visited Istanbul a year ago and was literally shocked to find a modern, sophisticated European city. I know that there is much activity going on in the country, and detailing has always been active over the years. We have had contact with numerous people there, and they even have a large chain of hand carwashes and detail centers that operate in shopping mall parking garages. Recently our company developed a freestanding detail shop and hand carwash that is unlike anything in the market. If the economics of the country continue positively and the import duties do not become restrictive, this could be a very viable market.

Israel is certainly a 21st century, modern country and has all of the trappings of any modern European country. There are both automatic tunnel washes and gasoline station carwashes, and there are a number of privately-owned detailing shops. Unfortunately, I have never visited Israel so I can only comment on what I have heard in speaking with Israeli distributors of equipment and detail supplies, and operators of carwashes and detail shops.

SUMMARY

There you have it, a trip around the detailing world as best as I know it. In most of the developed countries of the world, I think you will find that the detail business is pretty much the same as it is here.

Should you have any personal experiences with detailing around the world, please let me know by contacting me at buda@detailplus.com.

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