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News from the industry

October 11, 2010
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Mace unloads 12 washes, faces federal investigation

Mace Security, Inc. (Nasdaq: MACE) agreed to sell its Arizona Car Wash Region, representing 12 washes under the Weiss Guys Car Wash name, to CW Acquisition, LLC for $19.5 million — reportedly $2.5 million above the recorded net book value of the washes.

Mace was back in the headlines the following week when four of its Super Bright carwashes in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania region were raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Federal agents arrested 23 workers at Mace subsidiary Cherry Hill Car Wash and Detailing, saying they were illegal immigrants.

The arrests were part of a two-state crackdown that netted 57 employees of Mace’s Super Bright Car Wash chain.

Mace then responded to a subpoena for documents related to the raids. The company also filed a report with the Securities and Exchange commission, stating that federal authorities seized records and made arrests in an investigation of immigration violations at four of its remaining 36 carwashes.

Employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants may face criminal prosecution or administrative fines of up to $10,000 per person.

Cutthroat Detroit market sees losses of nearly 30 percent

The carwashing industry in the Midwest has hit the “perfect storm,” Bob Waldron, president of the Midwest Carwash Association and owner of two Pro Car Wash locations said, blaming a mild winter and rising gas prices for a nearly 30 percent loss in business in the region.

Anthony Yono, owner of Imperial Car Wash, said that cars are coming in much dirtier than usual, making it harder for the wash to clean them in one pass and he has had to cut back on employees to break even.

The city famous for its $2 and $3 washes may soon see $4 and $5 offerings, although a few no-frill washes in Detroit are charging as little as $1 to boost volumes.

Carwashes are faring well in the rest of the nation, Mark Thorsby, executive director of the International Carwash Association said; pointing out that stationary bay washes at gas stations are doing particularly well and most automatic conveyor operations are holding their own.

ICA show attendees choose winner of sign contest

The attendees of the 2006 International Carwash Association's (ICA) Car Care World Expo have spoken and the people's choice award winner of Professional Carwashing & Detailing® magazine's What's Your Sign Contest is Get Wet Car Wash of New Iberia, LA, who also won the formal contest.

Attendees of the show agreed with sign contest judge Janay Rickwalder of the International Sign Association (ISA). “This is a great sign,” Rickwalder said on her score card. “The message and specials are very clearly depicted.”

Owners Mike and Shermane Silva used a sign designer to help them carry the theme throughout their wash.

“We knew our sign would be our best source of advertisement and we were willing to spend the necessary dollars to make it unique in shape, design and color,” the couple said.

Carwash owners demand action on Jeep sudden acceleration

About 30 Car Care World Expo attendees gathered at a morning roundtable meeting to discuss sudden acceleration of vehicles, which has caused scores of accidents, many of them fatal, and has been a source of contention and controversy in the industry for years.

The Jeep Cherokee 'Sudden Acceleration' Issue Roundtable Discussion was a late addition to the International Carwash Association's (ICA) schedule of events following a fatal accident at a Connecticut carwash.

ICA General Counsel Bruce Kramer moderated the roundtable event and vocalized the ICA's desire to gather relevant information about “sudden unintended acceleration” in order to determine the association's next course of action.

Several carwash owners and operators shared stories regarding Jeep acceleration and their attempts to curtail the problems, including written policies, driver training and general caution when servicing Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Attendees urged the ICA to take both short term and long term action, including forming a task force to further research the Jeep acceleration problem and increase communication with DaimlerChrysler.

“The issue here is, there is a problem,” Bruce Milen, owner of the Southfield, MI-based Jax Car Wash stated. “We [the carwash industry] have to work with Chrysler to get them to acknowledge it, which I don't think they ever will.”

Ron Ludy, a specialist in vehicle engineering operations for the DaimlerChrysler Corporation, was in attendance for the duration of the meeting, but did not offer any comment despite several remarks claiming that DaimlerChrysler will not acknowledge the problem.

“Public pressure is the answer,” Doug Newman, past president of the Connecticut Carwash Association and International Carwash Association (ICA) board member from 2003-2005, said.

The roundtable ended with Kramer explaining that the ICA would use the information gathered at the event to aid the board of directors in their decisions and determine if a task force should be appointed to look into the issue.

PDQ/Amoco civil suit settled

Brian Wandersee and his company Advanced Cleaning Technologies were awarded $605,350 in a civil suit against Amoco Oil, now British Petroleum Products of North America, after a St. Louis County Circuit Court jury found he had suffered economically after a false criminal case mounted against him six years ago.

Criminal charges against Wandersee and his then-employee, Steven Amick, were dropped after prosecutors determined there was insufficient evidence to support the case in 2000.

Wandersee and Amick, who had previously been employed by Amoco, were accused of attempting to sell a PDQ Laser Wash unit intended for Amoco and stored in Wandersee's warehouse.

The jury exonerated PDQ Manufacturing, the second defendant in the civil suit, of charges of injurious falsehood.

“PDQ had very little, if any, involvement in the matter,” Charlie Lieb, President of PDQ Manufacturing, said. “We were pleased to see that the jury agreed with us and completely exonerated us in the case,”

Wandersee said he was pleased with the outcome. “First off, it cleared my name,” Wandersee said. “So just clearing my name was more valuable to me than anything.”

Wandersee filed civil litigation against Amoco and PDQ in January of 2002.

Wandersee showed in court that the criminal charges instigated by Amoco in 2000 resulted in specific losses of over $600,000; including contracts, banking agreements and potential sales for himself and his company, Advanced Cleaning Technologies, formerly OSCO Enterprises, founded by his father in 1972.