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Times are tough. Doug Marquis, vice president of sales and marketing for Lustra–CSI, a manufacturer of chemical products for conveyorized, in–bay automatic, and self–serve carwashes, based in De Pere, WI, admits this much. He has been with CSI, the makers of the Lustra brand of car care products, since joining the carwashing industry in 1994 and has seen the carwash industry weather economic storms before.
But Marquis doesn’t think the industry’s situation is impossible. He recently spoke to Professional Carwashing and Detailing and explained why, even in these challenging times, the future looks bright.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: Has the company been affected by the recent economic downturn? If so, how has it managed to stay afloat?
Doug Marquis: I think it’s safe to say almost every company has been affected to some degree by the difficult times we’re facing. In the carwash industry, this recent economic downturn is actually coming on the heels of what had been a few rough years for operators. We have seen the difficulties they’ve faced and have been diligently working with them to find new and better ways for them to satisfy their customers and market their businesses. As a result, they have stayed with Lustra products and helped us to grow our business.
Due to the cooperative effort we have applied, and by supplying carwashes through the highest quality distribution network in the carwash industry, we have more operator customers today than ever before. Lustra distributors have proven time and time again that they can make a difference at any carwash business.
There are likely going to be some more tough times in the months ahead and we will continue to assess and adjust where needed. However, we will always maintain focus on the key that drives all of our success — we will continually improve and re–enforce a positive carwash experience for the consumer. By working with all of our customers in that effort we will all come through this troubled time together.
PC&D: What about the rising costs of chemicals? How are they affecting your business?
DM: Without question the rising costs of chemicals, as well as that of packaging, shipping, etc., have had a significant impact on us as a chemical manufacturer. Based on some of the sound business practices and principles I referred to earlier, we have been able to manage the degree of impact that our rising costs have had on our customers.
PC&D: What are you doing to make sure the rising costs of chemicals doesn’t cost you any customers?
DM: As a part of our ISO 9001:2000 Certification we are always dedicated to the continuous improvement of our products, operations, and business processes, so we constantly have multiple research and development initiatives in place that are aimed at further minimizing the impact to our customers.
Whether we are finding newer, better, greener ways of producing our products or we are designing the next generation of effective and efficient carwash chemicals, maximizing the value we provide to our customers is always priority number one.
PC&D: Tell us about your efforts to be more environmentally friendly.
DM: As an organization, CSI has always led the way with “user– and environmentally–friendly” products since its inception.
Most recently, in an effort to formalize and take our green initiative to new heights we introduced our Earth Ready™ line of products. Earth Ready™ product standards were compiled from environmental criteria identified by EcoLogoM, Design for the Environment (DfE) and the European Union (EU). They are completely free of any hydrofluoric acid or ammonium bifluoride (HF/ABF), nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE’s), ozone depleting chemicals, aromatic solvents, and formaldehyde.
This line of products is safer than conventional carwash chemicals for vehicles, the environment, and the people who use them. Additionally, we have a comprehensive marketing program that explains these environmental benefits to the consumer encouraging them to recognize and make the choice toward more environmentally–friendly carwashes.
PC&D: What does the future hold for Lustra?
DM: The future is very bright. Our products continue to lead the way, our sales and marketing team is stronger than ever, and our research team is on the cusp of some breakthrough chemical technology that could reshape the way our industry looks at chemistry.
We have industry–leading technology, great people, strong distribution, as well as a forward–thinking and committed customer base. When the sun shines on our economy and our industry again, CSI and its Lustra Car Care Products are going to be one of the success stories. We’re working with more and more carwash operators every day.