Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Detailing in South America

March 14, 2012

Each country in South America, while in most cases larger than U.S. states, are similar in terms of this discussion of the carwash/detail industry. How advanced the industry is depends on how advanced the country is economically and socially. The big players in South America are: Venezuela; Colombia; Brazil; Argentina; and Chile.

That is not to say that the carwash/detail industry is non-existent nor advanced, but the other countries are too small to use as an example of what the industry might be as a whole. I would suspect that many of these smaller countries are much like Central America with Ecuador and Peru being the countries with the most activity in the carwash/detail business.

Brazil, as you may know, is not Spanish but Portuguese. Of all the big players it is the most advanced country economically. Because of their need to import oil and the huge drain on currency, for many years, Brazil did not allow importing other than for very, very essential items. As a result the country developed its own industries. They have the largest population in South America and several large urban cities. There are numerous automatic carwash locations throughout Brazil, most of which are from Ceccato because they have their own manufacturing plant in Brazil. The detailing business is, again, much like Mexico and the U.S. in that there are some modern facilities and many more back-alley operations.

I remember my first visit to Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1979. After visiting several carwashes/detail operations, I thought to myself, "Gosh, if I came to Brazil and set up a carwash and detail shop I would become a millionaire in no time." How right I was, and how much I could regret that non-decision. But we play the cards we are dealt.

Colombia and Venezuela are much like Brazil, but they do allow importation of equipment, chemicals and products. They have large populations, several large urban cities and a large car population. There are many automatic carwash/detail operations in every city as well as a number of primitive locations.

Of all the countries in South America, Argentina and Chile are the most advanced and probably the most similar to the U.S. and European markets in terms of automatic carwashing and auto detailing.

Anyone who travels to these countries and the major cities, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Santiago, Chile, are struck by how European and/or modern they are, and that is a fact, both cities are like visiting a European city.

The automatic carwash industry was introduced to Argentina and Chile when an alert businessman by the name of Jose Kerzberg in the mid-60s signed a manufacturing license agreement with Auto Christ of Germany to manufacture their equipment. His agreement covered both Argentina and Chile, and he aggressively sold in these markets until 1979 when he signed a similar agreement with Hanna Carwash of the U.S.

These carwash locations were typical of a modern automatic carwash in the U.S., plus they all offered some type of polishing, waxing and interior cleaning, or what we refer to as auto detailing.

With the economic fluctuations in these countries since that time, imports have either been very difficult or somewhat difficult, which means that while there is a presence of U.S. and European suppliers of carwash and detailing equipment and products, it is sometimes difficult to get consistent importation of the products.

However, the industry still moves forward and again is much like what you would find in the U.S.

Keep in mind, in all of South America the middle class is much smaller than the U.S., and the opportunity for a person to start their own business as one can in the U.S. with a few hundred dollars is literally non-existent. Other than having cars park by the river and using buckets of water to wash the car.