News from the industry
Daimler lashes out at ICA over Jeep issue
A harsh blog posting by DaimlerChrysler’s VP of Communications, Jason Vines, blamed carwash employees for Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Cherokee incidents of sudden unintended acceleration. It prompted a sharp reply from the International Carwash Association (ICA).
Vines’ blog referred to a decade-old problem the industry has with Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Cherokees, starting in the early-1990s after several accidents involved property damage, employee and customer injuries, and sometimes death.
The blog was originally posted on a journalist-only website hosted by DaimlerChrysler, but was soon picked up by national media and posted on various websites and blogs.
Vines told Professional Carwashing & Detailing the prickly, sometimes scathing blog posting was made in response to a letter the ICA sent to its members and to DaimlerChrysler, regarding increased awareness for Jeep Grand Cherokees and Jeep Cherokees at carwashes.
The letter was written after the February death of a Splash Car Wash customer in Connecticut, who was struck by a Jeep Grand Cherokee believed to have suddenly accelerated.
DaimlerChrysler was also responding to the Connecticut Attorney General’s request that the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) conduct an investigation of the incident.
Vines said incidents of sudden unintended acceleration are due to operator errors, not vehicle malfunctions.
“If a vehicle suddenly accelerates in a carwash, it’s generally because some dude ‘workin’ at the carwash baby’ is dancing with two left feet — stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake,” he wrote.
Vines offered no explanation as to why the carwash industry would target Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee models.
The ICA issued a written statement in response to the blog, expressing bewilderment at DaimlerChrysler’s tone and message. The association said it has worked with DaimlerChrysler for over 10 years regarding the Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee problem.
“We are puzzled as to why they are now seemingly blaming the carwash industry and its employees for the incidents,” the statement said.
In March, the ICA held a Jeep roundtable discussion at its annual expo. Vines said he was unaware of the meeting.
Ron Ludy, a specialist in vehicle engineering operations for DaimlerChrylser, attended the meeting as a Daimler spokesperson, but did not offer any comment to the owners and operators in attendance.
ICA focuses on “We Care” initiative
The ICA’s “We Care” Sudden Unintended Acceleration Advisory Group met to discuss progress on the issue of Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee sudden acceleration (SA) incidents, the same day as reports were first received about Jason Vines’ blog.
In addition to addressing Vines’ comments, the group discussed four priorities of the campaign:
- To review the information mailed to all conveyor members of the ICA, including hanging rearview mirror tags to help inform customers about potential dangers;
- To continue to collect data on sudden acceleration (SA) incidents. This includes the creation of a “survey-lite” version of the previous long-form questionnaire;
- Investigating SA incidents to conclude whether ICA-recommended actions were followed and if these actions helped to prevent damage/injury; and
- To ask state and regional carwash associations to distribute “We Care” materials and encourage reports of SA incidents.
In all of the incidents involving the Jeep models, the vehicle was started while the gear shift was in the “neutral” position. The association recommends carwash employees start these vehicles in “park”.
The association is considering advising operators to stop the carwash blowers before starting these vehicles after noticing all of the incidents happened when blowers were on. Other similarities among the 18 incidents are still being investigated.
Carwashes drain Mace’s revenue in 2006
Mace Security International Inc. reports first-half 2006 revenues suffered due to the poor performance of its carwashes.
Total revenues for the first half of 2006 were $27.9 million compared to $30.7 million for the same period in 2005. As well as owning car and truck wash facilities, Mace manufactures electronic surveillance and security products.
A notable decrease in carwash volumes in the company’s East Region was to blame for most of the 12 percent decrease in the company’s wash and detailing revenues.
To offset the decline in volume, Mace increased the average wash and detailing revenue per car to $15.48 in the first half of 2006, up from $15.17 in the same period in 2005.
Mace also noted a decrease in truck and truck wash gross profit percentage.
The company terminated an agreement with CW Acquisition Corporation to sell its 12 Arizona carwash facilities after twice extending the sale’s closing date.
CW Acquisition deposited $300,000 with Mace and wired an additional $12,500 in order to extend the closing date to Aug. 4. The closing date had previously been extended from June 15 to July 31.
The transaction was terminated after CW Acquisition acknowledged it was unable to arrange funding by Aug. 4.
Mace continues to explore the sale of its remaining carwashes.
British innovators develop inflatable carwash
Taking inspiration from a kitchen dishwasher, a team of scientists at Motor Industry Research Association has developed an inflatable carwash.
The scientists were challenged to come up with a way to clean cars during summer droughts.
Derek Charters, a senior consultant with the project, said many ideas had been considered, such as paint that never gets dirty and shooting polyester balls at a car to knock off the dirt.
The inflatable carwash has a built-in filter so the water can be reused in the wash or to irrigate landscaping and gardens.