In the professional carwash industry, we are accustomed to segregating carwashes by type. After all, an automatic carwash serves a different sort of customer than a self-serve; similarly, even a full service tunnel has a different clientele than an express wash. However, some washes try to pull from multiple customer bases in order to boost traffic and, therefore, profit margins. It’s very common, after all, for self-serve sites to feature in-bay automatics for customers who don’t want to spend time washing their cars themselves. In addition, the flex-serve concept has tried to meld together the best of both the full service and express washing worlds. Of course, add a detailing operation, quick lube or gas station to any of these wash types, and you’ve bagged yourself another stream of revenue.
While most carwash operators stick to one main carwash model, it’s becoming more common nowadays for potential new carwash owners to want to build “the Taj Mahal of carwashes.” What exactly defines “Taj Mahal” status seems to vary, but if there’s one carwash that seems to hit the mark in both size and scope of services, it’s Auto Spa Express in Burlington and Mississauga, Ontario.
Go big or go home
Fred Misheal, president of operation for Auto Spa Express and president of NEX Consulting, has worked in the petroleum carwash industry for over 25 years as a multi-site operator. Some 15 years ago, his passion for carwashing and detailing led him to join Ehab Shaheen and the company that operates Auto Spa “Ultimate Carwash & Detailing” at its original site in Burlington. While this site is already impressive at 18,000 square feet, Misheal and Shaheen decided they wanted to build another site … and take things up a notch.
So, they decided to work with a European manufacturer and its North American distributor to develop a world-class facility in Mississauga. “We traveled to Europe and bought the most advanced technological equipment [on the market],” Misheal recalls. Thus, this carwash, which opened in 2018, covers a whopping 44,000 square feet and is jam-packed with innovation. What all did they put into such a massive building? Just about everything a customer could need for basic car maintenance — and then some.
For Auto Spa Express, it wasn’t enough to have just one tunnel — it sports two at 190 feet each. In addition, the tunnel equipment contains contouring technology that follows the most difficult areas of vehicles through the wash. As if that wasn’t enough, the Mississauga location also features three 100-foot express detailing belts to speed along the interior cleaning process on high-demand days.
Unlike most washes, Auto Spa Express offers just one exterior wash package for $14.56 (CAD), but customers can add on tire shine, windshield water repellent and/or wax for additional fees. For customers who also want an interior clean, prices range from $35 to $41, depending on the type and size of the vehicle, and the aim is to complete the interior in around 15 minutes.
However, Auto Spa Express also offers full detailing options for customers who want an even deeper cleaning experience. While the aforementioned interior cleaning packages do not need to be booked ahead of time, full details do require appointments, and Auto Spa Express offers an exhaustive menu of services — anything from seat cleaning and shampoo, headlight restoration and ceramic coating to complete interior details and bumper-to-bumper details.
Alone, two tunnels and three detailing belts might already seem like a lot to pack into one carwash. However, Auto Spa Express also casts a small net over the DIY customer by having a self-serve bay and vacuums. At a rate of $3 for four minutes, these customers can take washing matters into their own hands. The self-serve bay offers a high-pressure rinse, tire cleaner, presoak, high-pressure soap, foam brush, tri-color wax, Teflon wax and spot-free rinse.
Outside of washing the car, Auto Spa Express also has Jiffy Lubes at both its sites, which offer complete oil, filter and fluid maintenance along with tire swaps and rotation services. In addition, each carwash hosts a Uniglass Express shop, which provides window tinting, paintless dent removal and windshield repair.
While their cars are being worked on, customers at each site can wait in a luxurious lounge, enjoying a 120-inch widescreen television, lounge chairs, a Starbucks café and modern washroom facilities.
“The intention is to give our guests the opportunity of a one-stop shop, which includes exterior wash and express interior services, self-serve wash and vacuum bays, fine detailing, premium vehicle treatments, Jiffy Lube oil change, on-site windshield repair and replacement, Starbucks coffee [and] light snacks and beverages while you wait for your vehicle to be serviced,” Misheal says.
To keep customers coming back, Auto Spa Express offers both a wash pass program and a loyalty program (in addition to Jiffy Lube’s “get a free wash with every oil change” cross promotion). The wash pass program comes in two tiers: regular and premium, the latter adding on tire shine and wax to the exterior wash. The pass program gives customers 12 washes over a 90-day period, starting from the first time the pass is used. However, the pass is not restricted to one vehicle. While Auto Spa also currently offers a loyalty program, it plans to revamp it when it unveils its upcoming, new app that will make it even easier for customers to purchase washes and schedule other auto service appointments.
Misheal states, “We rely on satisfied customers who return for the quality and affordable services that we offer. We are laser-focused on delivering the ultimate customer satisfaction, utilizing social media as a tool to capture online comments, which assist in complete customer satisfaction.”
In addition, Auto Spa Express aims to keep not only customers happy but employees as well. The company has implemented new ergonomic tools and methods to help its team members perform their jobs with less effort and fatigue.
In addition to being at the forefront of innovation and technology, Auto Spa Express also tries to set an example in promoting eco-friendly practices.
“We have a wide breadth of services which are unique with environmentally friendly processes and technological advancements which set a very high standard in our industry,” Misheal notes.
For instance, Auto Spa Express reclaims 90% of its water; has installed LED lighting in all of its fixtures, using motion sensors where required; uses variable frequency drives to control all its motors; and is currently working towards having 100% eco-friendly cleaning products for both exterior and interior cleaning.
Auto Spa Express seeks to set the bar high on the carwash industry standard, and Misheal and Shaheen are always willing to discuss business best practices with other washers.
“We are passionate and committed to ensuring that our services are second to none in the marketplace,” Misheal concludes. “We are always looking for new innovations and ideas in the industry to serve our customers better. We are proud to say many people in the industry from all over the globe visited us to gain new ideas and experience; therefore, we were encouraged and pleased to offer consulting services in the industry to help individuals on their new projects.”