Jim Fitzpatrick doesn’t necessarily want to be labeled as an environmentalist. But, if he has to be labeled, he is okay with the title of conservationist. It’s a fitting title considering he owns ProntoWash Eco AutoSPA, a mobile carwashing and detailing company that uses less than one pint of water per car as well as biodegradable, highly concentrated, foamless detergent.
Headquartered in Miami, FL, Pronto Wash has locations across the country and in 23 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Central and South America. Fitzpatrick is the master franchisee of Southern California, which means in conjunction with Pronto Wash USA, he develops franchise concepts and operations. There are more than 20 locations in Southern California.
Fitzpatrick, who writes a Green Living column for the Newport Beach Independent, recently spoke with Professional Carwashing & Detailing and explained how the mobile units operate, how they’re marketing their services to charities and the future of the ProntoWash franchise.
Professional Carwashing & Detailing: How does the ProntoWash Eco AutoSPA format work?
Jim Fitzpatrick: Our proprietary mobile detail unit provides a system that cleans a car using less than a pint of water and does not harm the environment. Different dilution ratios perform paint washing, window cleaning, all purpose cleaner, clay lubricant, detergent for washing towels, etc. Spray on, wipe off lotions clean, shine and protect a car all in one step, conveniently, and without scratching. We also do not use pressured water to remove dirt.
PC&D: What’s it like marketing your business to customers? Are they weary of the fact that you use such little water?
JF: No. The number one attribute they like is our ability to deliver a time-saving, yet quality service. We focus more on sending out our convenience factor to them. We select locations by visibility and convenience.
Right now we operate out of malls, corporate buildings/ complexes and strip malls, to name a few. Customers like that we come to them while they can work or run errands. We just launched units at the Orange County Airport, Universal Studios Hollywood, and at a 52-story LEED Building.
PC&D: Are there are a lot of hurdles and red tape involved in running a carwash business in the state of California?
JF: The Department of Labor regulates all carwashes, so attempts are made to level the playing field in terms of labor practices, and it requires a minimum level of financial stability to achieve the registration and bonding.
I participated in the State Water Control Board hearings to yield the most stringent NPDES (national pollutant discharge elimination system) MS4 Permit which regulates discharge and pollution into the storm drains. I became a land use expert that allowed our services to be sited in places traditionally that are not serviced by the industry.
PC&D: What are some of the difficulties/challenges involved in being a mobile business?
JF: It’s no different than any other business sector. We are most concerned with labor and making sure the owner/operators provide a great quality service. A benefit is the flexibility … in this tough economy you can adapt and hunt for business opportunities.
PC&D: It seems as if charities are moving toward using professional washes, as opposed to hosting driveway or parking lot carwash charities. Please tell us about how you got involved with charity washes.
JF: I am very confident in the model and process. The electric car is growing in concentrated markets. There is a trend towards smaller cars. So, I believe the gas station will also soon be a charging station, A ProntoWash model will never outpace a traditional carwash as the dominant market share, so to survive, we will have to evolve to stay relevant.
Fleet work of many kinds and co-branding with traditional carwashes will occur in 2010/2011. This model will allow for onsite low-water options, sometimes before the car is gassed and vacuumed. You will see “waterless” options at traditional carwashes. The model will offer carwashes a way to go mobile.