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In-bay Automatic

Today's hybrid IBA

October 11, 2010
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About a decade ago, a big trend in washing was touchless in-bay automatics (IBA). Operators and customers liked using solutions and water pressure, in place of brushes or cloth, to wash vehicles. Touchless technology still remains pretty popular, but nowadays a new kid is on the block. Hybrid wash systems are addressing the age old debate between touchless or friction, giving customers the best of both touchless and friction washing technologies.

Effective and popular
Hybrid wash systems are steadily gaining in popularity and are being considered by many industry experts as the one of most effective methods to clean and dry a vehicle. Hybrid IBA wash systems can offer touchless, friction or a combination of both services in a single wash bay. Early models of hybrid wash systems gave customers the opportunity to select the type of cleaning method they preferred, either touchless or friction. Today’s models are using both technologies to achieve a superior type of cleaning at a high-dollar ticket average.

Hybrids deliver a more consistent wash quality than touchless or friction washing alone. This is due in part to the fact that the wash process is less likely to be affected by fluctuations in temperature and soil conditions, especially in those parts of the country where soils are challenging to clean.

Consumer acceptance
Based on independent research conducted in 2007, consumers have begun to show a slight shift toward friction washes. But until recently they haven’t had the confidence in the cloth materials or brush systems. Many consumers felt there was a higher risk of damage to their vehicles with friction systems and now with the development of hybrid wash systems, the possibility of vehicle damage is less significant and the wash quality is extremely good.

Today, the carwash industry has seen a significant increase in the number of hybrid wash units being installed domestically. Already in some parts of the country, particularly where there is an imbedded base of hybrid of equipment, consumers have already begun to develop a preference for hybrid washing.

As more hybrid wash systems are installed across the U.S. and the technology becomes more widely known and accepted; it would seem likely that operators will also see greater consumer acceptance of hybrid wash equipment.

Marketing your hybrid wash
As with any wash system, you’ll want to talk about the benefits of your hybrid wash system rather than promoting the technology. While the technology components are compelling to you, your customer will want to know why your wash is better and worth the money and you’ll want to point out all of the wash features like its ease of use and safe foam brushes which won’t harm a vehicle. Plus, you’ll want to promote wash applications like super sealants, triple foam and drying agents.

Your entire marketing message should promote how your hybrid wash is different and better than that of your competition.

To a consumer, a hybrid wash can look like a friction system, so it’s important to develop a marketing plan. If your customer base is “hard-core” touchless fans, you’ll need to invest in a an advertising campaign to promote the soft brushes and gentle cleaning action.

Convincing a touchless customer that hybrid washing is safe can be a challenge. But customers are finally beginning to realize that friction cleaning methods used today are very different than the harsh bristle brushes of the past, which created concerns about damage.

Moving the pendulum
On the flip side, an operator will want to capture more business from friction customers. In many cases, customers saw the brushes and pulled into the wash thinking it was a friction machine. After their initial wash experience they were impressed with the wash quality and have since returned even after learning that the wash was actually a hybrid wash. In this situation, the switch to hybrid equipment enabled the operator to capture more market share from those who were strictly “friction customers.”

Another benefit is that in general, friction customers perceive the high-pressure wash applications to be a value added service giving their customers a higher perceived value for their money.

Investing in a hybrid wash system
Typically the capital investment for a hybrid system is about the same as other in-bays, and unlike exterior tunnels it requires little labor to operate. Hybrid systems also allow for competitive pricing, given the potential for savings on solutions and ancillary costs.

A few things wash operators will need to keep in mind, particularly if they’ve only had touchless systems: there may be a greater potential for customer interaction. This occurs mainly if there are incidents of damage requiring resolution by the operator.

Also, operators will need to continue to rely on marketing and loyalty programs to garner additional visitations. With friction and hybrid wash systems, motorists may perceive their wash to be better and visit less frequently or only when the vehicle is heavily soiled.

As mentioned earlier, there are a number of hybrid wash systems being offered by manufacturers. Before making a purchase do your homework to thoroughly understand the throughput and revenue potential. Not all hybrid wash systems are alike and keep in mind, your local equipment distributor is a great resource for information and they can help you to gain the competitive advantage and achieve your financial goals.

Kelly Luberda is marketing program manager for PDQ Manufacturing. For more information, call 800-227-3373 or e-mail her at

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