Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Is the carwash half empty? Or half full?

October 11, 2010
I have always thought of the carwash industry as a rather optimistic and helpful bunch, always ready to look for the sunshine after the rain has fallen. But a recent post on Auto Care Forum (an online forum for carwash operators) rattled the ice in my half-full glass. An operator there spelled doom and gloom for the car care industry in 2008 — oversaturation, evil manufacturers, dishonest distributors, conniving competitors, rude customers. It seemed everyone was to blame for his individual failures.

Conversations with two separate gentlemen at this year’s Midwest Carwash Association Show & Expo seemed to rattle the glass even more. One operator was opposed to the idea of attempting to educate consumers about the environmental benefits of professional carwashing. It wouldn’t do us any good, he said, without offering a reason why. The other carwasher sincerely doubted the intentions and abilities of his fellow operators, claiming their business practices were putting him out of business.

Perhaps I have spun my own cocoon, surrounding myself with cheery, optimistic and successful carwashers who paint a bright future for the carwash industry. When I think of carwashing, those operators come to mind first. I think of the carwashers who help other operators, who think education for customers and for new investors can only better the industry.

These operators work hard to earn their success and to improve the industry. They show up at early bird forum sessions at the regional trade shows and let out-of-town operators tour their tunnels and bays. They offer advice on Internet bulletin boards and contribute to association efforts.

These operators still have to deal with market oversaturation. They still have to send employees home on rainy days. They still have to handle rising expenses like water and sewer. They still have to form working relationships with manufacturers and distributors.

They do it by facing their problems head-on. They are pro-active in their efforts. Instead of complaining, they make a change. Think your market is over-saturated? Fine. Start advertising and improving your service offering to attract better customers. Think weather patterns are hurting your business? Cut your expenses and start a coupon campaign. Look at automation to reduce costs.

The squeaky wheel may get the grease — but not if you’re a business owner. There’s no one to put the grease on but you. The squeaky wheel just gets louder.

So I think today you need to ask yourself if you need some grease. If you do, seek out these optimistic, helpful operators for advice. You can find them on the boards of industry associations, in the pages of industry trade magazines, online, and at trade shows. If you’re having trouble identifying them, look for the smiles — and for me, I’m always trying to chase them down for ideas. Take their advice and run with it in 2008. Operators helping operators, together with distributors, suppliers and manufacturers, will build a better, more successful carwash industry in the New Year.

Kate Carr is the editor in chief of Professional Carwashing & Detailing® Magazine and an extreme optimist. You can send your grumblings, compliments and suggestions to