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Business Operations

News from the Industry

October 11, 2010
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Autobell opens two new locations
Autobell Car Wash Inc., the third largest conveyor carwash chain in the nation, has opened a 54th and 55th location.

The new carwashes are located in Indian Trail and Raleigh, NC. The Raleigh-based one is the seventh one in the Wake County area. The Indian Trail one is the third in Union County.

The Raleigh location has an Aqua Bio 100 percent reclaim water treatment system. President and CEO Chuck Howard said, “With this system, enzymes actually digest and recycle the waste water.”

The company will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year.

Mr. Clean licensed in 41 states
Mr. Clean Car Wash, the franchise developed by P&G, is now licensed to operate in 41 states, and the company plans to “make it as big as we can.”

The company acknowledged the challenges of growing a franchise in a recession, but pointed out some advantages: Real estate prices are down and communities are eager for new businesses that bring 40 to 60 jobs — as each Mr. Clean does.

P&G said revenue for its carwash location in northern Cincinnati has risen 10 percent and volume 20 percent in its second year — helped by a $5 morning special on exterior washes. Carwash said there were two days in January that representatives drew in more than 1,000 customers on a single day.

“You can tell how strong the brand is by the response,” said Justin Bailey, who ran a carwash in Kentucky, and now manages the Mr. Clean in Cincinnatti. “What it took me five years to accomplish with my carwash, they did here when they opened the doors.”

SBA offers new podcasts
The U.S. SBA has enhanced its podcasts to help entrepreneurs weather the recession.

The 10-minute podcasts from the SBA feature expert interviews, information, tips and advice on a variety of small business topics.

New topics include marketing to the federal government, getting a small business ready for tax season and online reporting of employee wages.

World’s largest carwash chain faces creditors
The Carlyle Group, a private equity fund and owner of the world’s largest carwash company, is prepared to pay its creditors $36 million in order to write off debt and maintain control of its buy-out of IMO Carwash.

This marks the second time Carlyle has had to put money into the IMO investment. As Professional Carwashing & Detailing® earlier reported, Carlyle announced last June that it wanted to raise funds in order to expand its carwash presence across Europe.

IMO, the largest known carwash company in the world, operates more than 900 carwash sites in 14 countries. Carlyle bought the group in 2006 from JP Morgan Partners.

The company has struggled in recent years, partly owed to an increase in average rainfall and the global recession.

NJ mandate: State trucks must be taken to approved washes
New Jersey is now making it so that all public works vehicles are washed at places with proper drainage. Professional carwashes and municipalities can no longer wash their car without proper state permits.

The mandate, handed down by the federal government, has been issued as a way to try and reduce stormwater pollution and is one of six minimum measures being taken by the state to comply with federal stormwater standards.

Towns will end up paying more to transport the vehicles to a carwash and some, including Buena Vista Township Mayor Chuck Chiarello, aren’t happy about it.

Chiarello said, “I'm mad because I've spent two years at it. I've been trying to get someone's ear to find out how we can make this less of a burden on the municipalities.”

Bruce Friedman, a supervisor with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Nonpoint Pollution Control, said, “That requirement (for carwashes) has been getting a lot of discussion. From the very beginning we strongly pushed shared services. We suggested that [municipalities] get together and work towards building capital projects, like carwashes.”

Atlantic County's Department of Public Works head Harry Tillett said they are working to build a proper carwash for county vehicles and said they would be willing to work with neighboring municipalities so that they could wash there vehicles at the facility as well. In the meantime the county will rely on rain water to wash the vehicles.

Another L.A. carwash in hot water
The owners of Auto Spa Express Car Wash have been issued $18,890 in citations for health and safety violations, four of which were classified as “serious” by the California Occupational and Safety Health Association (OSHA). A serious designation indicates there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from the violation.

The citations were issued the same day criminal charges were filed against the owners of four Los Angeles carwashes, Benny and Nisan Pirian, and a manager under their employ, Manuel Reyes.

Auto Spa Express Car Wash and the Pirian family carwashes were all targets of a consumer boycott by the Community-Labor-Environmental Action Network (CLEAN) Carwash Campaign.

Jonathan Min Kim, owner of Auto Spa Express, also has two other carwash businesses: Melrose Car Wash in Los Angeles and Bixby Knolls Car Wash in Long Beach. Cal/OSHA issued a dozen citations totaling nearly $12,000 in fines against the Bixby Knolls Car Wash in September 2008.

Cal/OSHA inspectors found the following serious safety hazards at Auto Spa Express:

  • Unguarded electric equipment operating in excess of 50 volts;
  • Ungrounded electrical plug;
  • Unguarded moving chain and sprocket drive attached to motor vehicle chain inside wash tunnel; and
  • Unguarded moving parts of belt and pulley drives.

    Other violations include:
  • Not providing requested documents to OSHA inspectors;
  • Lack of an Injury and Illness Prevention Program;
  • Lack of a Heat Illness Prevention and Training Program;
  • Lack of a Respiratory Protection program; and
  • Lack of a Written Hazard Communication Program.

In addition, OSHA inspectors conducted noise monitoring inside the carwash tunnel and vacuum area and found the noise was high enough to harm workers' hearing if they were exposed to it for six or more hours.

The state also found the Kim-owned carwashes in Los Angeles are not registered, as required by a California law passed in 2003.