Mike Foster is a director with Procter & Gamble (P&G) FutureWorks, responsible for franchising initiatives and new business ventures. FutureWorks looks at opportunities outside the mainstream of P&G’s core businesses opportunities like the Mr. Clean Performance Car Wash and Mr. Clean AutoSPATM.
Foster recently spoke with Professional Carwashing and Detailing® and let us in on the company’s new AutoSPA, a carwash which cleans a car with less than 16 ounces of water. The Cincinnati-based AutoSPA is P&G’s third carwash business and represents a complete departure from its first full-serve carwashes, also located in Ohio.
Professional Carwashing and Detailing: Please tell us about the concept behind the Mr. Clean Auto Spas?
Mike Foster: The AutoSPA brings convenience and a personal hand-wash touch to carwashing. It’s all about meeting or exceeding consumer needs wherever they exist. With the AutoSPA, you can park your car in a garage near major shopping, dining, and entertaining venues and have the car hand washed, waxed, and detailed (full service interior and exterior) while you work, shop, dine out, or do whatever else you came downtown to do. It’s all about convenience and saving time. Plus, the AutoSPA is a hand-wash, so the car looks great! The AutoSPA uses about 8-16 ounces of water PER vehicle (less than a typical bottled water). It features a biodegradable lotion cleaning technology that produces no pollutant wastewater. We use a low pressure spray nozzle and a cleaning formula with a mix of water and a non-foamy wax and detergent compound that is biodegradable and totally harmless. The spray adheres to the dirt and then, rather than using pressured water, a micro-fiber towel is used to trap and lift the dirt from the car. It’s really cool to watch and you can see the benefit and shine of the car immediately!
Professional Carwashing and Detailing: How many are there now and how many are pending?
Mike Foster: There is just one at the moment, located in the Fountain Square Garage in downtown Cincinnati. Mr. Clean continues to look at new ways to serve consumers; this is an example of that. Like our two Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes in Cincinnati, this is another learning opportunity for us. There are no more pending and we do not comment on future plans or speculation.
Professional Carwashing and Detailing: Why did Procter & Gamble decide to open a chain of carwashes that use less water?
Mike Foster: Mr. Clean has made the strategic decision to search for best-in-class solutions across the globe to improve consumers’ lives. In this case, we are partnering with Pronto Wash, Inc. to learn about the consumer appeal and business potential of this concept.
Pronto Wash has been in business since 2001 and is a global company with enterprises in more than 20 countries,
400 wash locations, including 50 in the United States.
Professional Carwashing and Detailing: What are the difficulties involved in running a water-efficient carwash?
Mike Foster: I’d say that it’s important to remember that this is a learning opportunity for us — so we are trying new things, new ideas, new concepts and business models. It’s not about difficulties — it’s about what are the needs of the consumer and how can we best meet them.
We think that putting the AutoSPA in a place like downtown, where many people come for work or entertainment, is ideal — you don’t need an appointment and don’t need to take the car out specifically to have it cleaned; it will be washed while you are out about town. Regarding the water efficiency of the carwash — there are no difficulties at all given the process described above.
Professional Carwashing and Detailing: Are customers skeptical about using a carwash that uses little water?
Mike Foster: Mr. Clean has been around for 50 years. Many people grew up with the brand name, they trust Mr. Clean; Mr. Clean has a solid equity in this area.
Also, most people want to be environmentally friendly and help however they can. Since the AutoSPA, like The Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes, are environmentally friendly with no effluents direct to the environment, efficient use of water and energy, and comes with the trusted name of Mr. Clean, people have already begun to embrace the concept. We’ve seen the business grow steadily from week to week.