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In-bay Automatic

See it now, see it later

October 11, 2010
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When self-service carwashing was in its infancy, some industry pioneers believed the single best invention in the field was the foam brush. Today, a foam brush is commonplace and seems anything but innovative.

In years to come, some may look back on total car protectants as a parallel development for automatic in-bay carwashes.

Why is a total car protectant different from other services offered in the last several years? Because when you apply a total car protectant, the consumer sees a difference during application and, more importantly, for weeks after application.

Results that last and last and last
Total car protectants are a new genre, designed to protect every surface of the vehicle and to last longer than typical products, including waxes and clearcoat conditioners.

Advances in chemistry (specifically in the area of polymers and related chemistry to allow polymers to “build” in aqueous dispersions) have allowed for a much more effective and longer lasting protection to be offered to the consumer.

The cost to deliver this quality polymer formulation at the levels necessary for an improvement in durability and performance is slightly more than operators are used to paying, ranging from thirty to fifty cents per car.

However, the price operators can normally charge is $1.50 to $2 per car. This is a significant increase in the cost per wash and a very significant increase in the profit a wash can realize.

Some percentage of your customers are not price sensitive — they always want the best. They either love their car or money is not an issue.

Either way, by creating a wash package using a total car protectant, you are able to tap this set of customers who only want the best and are willing and able to pay for it.

Operators sometimes limit their financial potential by thinking customers won’t pay that much for a wash. To see results, refer to “What can an operator expect to realize?”

Signs, signs, signs
A service such as this demands an attentive marketing campaign to educate the consumer about the new service.

Signage is the most critical part of success in marketing total car protectants. Most consumers don’t know what a total car protectant is and signs must explain the value of the additional $2 and justify the increased expenditure.

It must be eye-catching, informative and have a call to action.

Once buying the service, the customer will see the results, which encourages a repurchase and confirms this was worth the upgrade.

List your two top washes with all that they offer. Consumers should be able to see the added value in your total car protectant wash, which should be shown at the top or left of your menu, depending on how your sign is set up.

The menu board setup is second in importance to promotional signage. The menu board must clearly highlight that the total car protectant is the upgrade item.

Successful marketing also includes the addition of other options, since experience has proven you want to make the upgraded wash appear to be a virtual bargain.

Some manufacturers of total car protectants offer a 30-day guarantee on product performance which can be posted on the menu board. This added guarantee encourages consumers to upgrade their wash because you are removing the risk if it doesn’t perform.

Another way of saying this is to picture yourself as a consumer deciding between the $7 wash and the $9 wash. While the $9 wash may be more than you want to spend, if it comes with a total car protectant and another pass of presoak or spot-free rinse, the decision becomes easier since additional services get offered for that extra $2.

Brent McCurdy is a general manager and co-owner of Blendco Systems, LLC. Blendco Systems is headquarted in Bristol, PA. Brent’s email is

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