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I have been following the Jeep controversy this last week, and it seems both the carwash industry and Chrysler Jeep are driving with a bad blind spot.
First, I will start with Jeep.
The statement by their spokesman, Michael Palese, is both ridiculous and a complete and utter disregard for the truth. He claims Jeep sudden acceleration is “an urban legend started by the carwash association”. Seriously, he defines human arrogance on a scale that is hard to measure.
Mr. Palese won’t reveal the truth, and why should he? To admit fault means lawsuits, bad press, claim payouts, loss of revenue and loss of market share. In other words, it’s all about the money for our friends at Jeep. Should we expect anything less?
In my 25 years in the carwash business, I have seen horrific crashes with people hurt. The steep majority of vehicles involved have been Jeep Cherokees. We are not talking about simple bumper cars going through the tunnel, no sir. These have been serious and terrifying accidents with nasty physical injuries, psychological trauma and property damage.
Here is the simple truth: Not every Jeep is a carwash accident, but most carwash accidents are Jeeps.
Jeep knows this, yet does nothing. Don’t look to them or people like Mr. Palese for solutions.
This brings me to my second point, the carwash owners and managers.
I understand the frustration and concern that owners and managers face with Jeeps. But the fact of the matter is this: Waterway Carwash has overplayed its hand.
Hey, it’s their business to operate as they see fit. But they are needlessly turning away customers and revenue. Especially in places like the Midwest – where older model Jeeps are as common as rain, sleet and snow.
The main issue happens when the vehicle goes from neutral on the conveyor, to drive at the end of the wash process. That’s when Sudden Acceleration occurs. That is the crucial production point that needs to be managed.
I come from a carwash culture where Jeep Cherokees received special handling. We had processes and procedures in place exclusively for these vehicles. It is simple, yet effective. There are two main points:
1) When a driver gets into a jeep as it is coming off the conveyor, he honks the horn three times. The engine is never started and the wipers simply push the Jeep out to the pad. Most front pads have a slight decline, and the effort to push the Jeep is minimal. Once on the pad, it is put in park and the finishing touches are completed. Yes the brakes work with the engine turned off.
An extra car length or two of space is given by the people loading the Jeep onto the conveyor. This gives everybody time and space to handle the Jeep properly. Simple as pie.
It may seem cumbersome, but done a few times, and then a few hundred times, and then a few thousand times – it becomes second nature and part of the culture. It may slow production on a truly busy day, but 90 percent of your hours of operation won’t be affected. Not a big deal. Any small inconveniences are worth the increased safety and the added revenue from washing these vehicles.
2) If the driver starts a Jeep coming off the conveyor, they lose their job. Almost forgot, so does the manager on duty. One more thing, the GM is finished also – whether on premise or not. Three people out of work. It’s amazing how seriously management takes these precautions when it’s their job on the line. Everybody signs the safety agreement. It’s legal and binding. Clear as a bell. Cameras will provide backup to any dispute as well.
I have always believed never cutting what can be untied. Waterway Car Wash has painted itself into a corner instead of managing the problem. Most households have two to three cars, and if they can’t wash one – the rest won’t be coming in either. They will simply find a new carwash. That’s a fact.
So there you have it, simple solutions to a bad problem.
The Jeep owners win – they get to wash their vehicles at your facility.
The wash employees win – they work without fear of being hit by a runaway Jeep.
The managers win – no issues or problems that come from a bad accident.
The owners win – no lawsuits, no claims and no calls to families of the injured or killed.