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News from the industry

October 11, 2010
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PC&D launches New Investor Guide
Professional Carwashing & Detailing will unveil its publication for potential and first-time carwash operators at Car Care World Expo, held this April 7-10 in Orlando, FL.

PC&D’s New Investor Guide will offer an in-depth look at the investment process; from financing to permitting and construction.

The one-time only print publication will be delivered to those subscribers who identified themselves as “potential investors” when they subscribed to PC&D, and also available at the magazine’s booth, #2771, at Car Care World Expo.

The print publication will be followed with a quarterly e-Magazine, featuring timely and up-to-date advice guiding readers through the investment process.

PC&D’s New Investor e-Guide will be emailed to online subscribers every three months.

Service sector shrinks for first time in 5 years
A January reading from the Institute of Supply Management shows the nation’s service sector — which includes carwashes — shrank for the first time in five years.

The report cited many different types of struggling businesses, including moving companies, stores, rental car companies, restaurants, contractors and resorts.

Executives surveyed for the report fretted over the economy, high oil prices, the falling stock market, lower customer demand, stiffer competition and sluggish sales.

The ISM’s new composite index measuring the health of the service sector was 44.6 in January, below the level of 50 that indicates expansion. The group’s measure of non-manufacturing business activity fell to 41.9 in January from a revised reading of 54.4 in December — its largest drop ever.

The last time the ISM reported that the service sector shrank was March 2003.

Autobell opens 49th location
Autobell Car Wash Inc. has opened its 49th location and first in Durham, NC. Autobell, based in Charlotte, NC, is the third largest conveyor carwash in the nation. The family-owned company has locations in 25 North Carolina, one South Carolina and four Virginia cities and towns.

“This area continues to see tremendous growth,” Chuck Howard, president and CEO of Autobell, said. “It’s an excellent location for our foray into Durham.”

In an interview with Professional Carwashing & Detailing last year, Howard said the company did not have any solid goals for growth, but could handle opening 10 new stores in a year.

Aussie TV report claims reclaim water is health hazard
An investigative report seeking to uncover the health risks of carwash reclaim water has sparked response from one water reclaim manufacturer and also the Australian Car Wash Association (ACWA).

The report, produced by Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, tested samples gathered at 10 carwashes in Brisbane, Australia, for six kinds of waterborne bacteria, including E. coli. A Current Affair is a nightly tabloid program, made popular by sensationalist journalism.

According to the results of the testing, bacteria levels varied anywhere from ten times to almost a million times higher than what is expected of fresh drinking water.

The report did not investigate what types of water reclaim systems were used at the carwashes, but seemed to assume that all of the locations were outfitted with some type of water reclamation system. The program said nine of the ten carwashes showed levels of bacteria that could potentially cause risk to the health of carwash patrons and employees.

Samples for the test were gathered out of the hose in self-serve wash bays or by using concealed containers attached to the car in automatic or hand wash facilities. The report did not say if water carrying contamination from vehicles at the automatic carwashes may have hampered results of the testing.

The program did not speak with anyone who had been made sick by reclaim water, nor did it cite any numbers of those who might have been affected by reclaim water so far.

As previously reported by PC&D, drought restrictions across Australia mean the public cannot wash their vehicles at home and must use professional carwashes. Many of these carwashes reclaim water to lessen their impact on the drought.

In a response broadcast after the report, the Australian Car Wash Association (ACWA) said it is working with Australia’s Workplace Health and Safety to develop a code of practice for the use of recycled water in carwashes.

According to Greg Boston, past president of the ACWA and now a state representative, the association is uncertain as to what initiated the TV report.

“The general opinion amongst operators is that it had little impact on the public and didn’t necessarily result in the over dramatized outcome the media may have liked.” Boston wrote in an e-mail to PC&D.

Boston said the association is carrying out its own research, engaging the services of environmental consultants to conduct research, both qualitative and quantitative, on identifying any bacteria with risk potential in carwash reclaim water.

“Our investigations indicate there presently is no such information available worldwide. Our goal is to develop some manageable industry guidelines which are acceptable to workplace health and safety authorities nationally,” Boston said.

Clearmake, an Australian manufacturer of industrial water treatment and recycling equipment, also issued a response to the report.

In the response, Clearmake said it shared concerns raised by the program. Clearmake used the response to specify differences in its reclaim process that would eliminate concerns about bacteria.

The response did not say if any of the 10 carwashes tested in the report used Clearmake equipment.

Kroger buys carwash
Kroger Limited Partnership I, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., has purchased a Bartlett, TN, carwash for $1.5 million from LIF Carwash Ventures LLC.

Kroger, one of the nation’s largest grocery retailers, is already heavily involved in the gasoline industry, although this appears to be the first time the company has operated a carwash on its own. It has partnered with carwashes in the past to cross-market services and to enhance offerings at its gas stations.

The carwash is next to a 10-year-old, 60,000-square-foot Kroger store in a 10-acre shopping division.

LIF Carwash Ventures bought the carwash in 2005 from JT Investments LLC for $1.2 million. The current appraisal of the carwash was $227,500. Built in 2002, the 4,000-square-foot facility is on a .91-acre parcel.

Jeep accelerates; sends carwash worker to hospital
A three-vehicle collision started by a Jeep Cherokee at Tender Touch carwash in Mississauga, Canada, left one employee hospitalized. PC&D last reported about Jeep sudden unintended acceleration in November, when two separate and unrelated incidents happened in the Virginia Beach area; one at an Autobell Carwash, the other at Oyster Point Car Wash.

In the Mississauga case, a female employee had gotten into a Jeep Cherokee to advance it along the carwash’s line when the vehicle suddenly accelerated, hitting a Nissan in front of it that was having its interior cleaned. The Nissan then hit a table which ended up hitting another car that was being cleaned.

The female employee’s mouth hit the steering wheel and she was transported to the hospital. The accident caused about $1,000 in damages to the carwash.

Incidents of sudden unintended acceleration involving Jeep Cherokees date back to the early 1990s.

Two years ago in February 2006, the carwash industry was shocked and saddened by the death of a customer at Splash Car Wash in Hamden, CT. The death was the result of sudden unintended acceleration by a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The incident prompted the International Carwash Association to hold a special segment at the Car Care World Expo 2006 to discuss the matter.