Partnering with auto dealers for profit

Partnering with auto dealers for profit

Carwash detailing departments can reap high profits by delivering good work quickly and reliably.

Most automobile dealers, especially new car dealers, realize the value in dealing with a dependable, reliable detail business and are willing to pay a fair price for the work. If your carwash’s detailing department is not currently working with new auto dealerships, it is something to consider. The benefit of working with a dealer is that it is more regular than retail work, and it allows you to keep the best detail employees working when there is not much on the retail work side.

And, best of all, developing a relationship with an auto dealership can result in getting carwash business in the form of free washes that the dealership might give to service customers, which in turn brings in new customers for your carwash business and maybe your detail operation as well.

7 steps to success

Here are seven steps to consider when seeking dealership business.

Check out local dealerships

Before approaching a dealership, it is critical that you research the local dealers that might be candidates for your detail business. You can do this research online and get to know who’s who at the dealership. You can also drive by and even stop in to get a feel of the culture at the dealership. Local dealerships that are ideal to partner with are those close enough to your business, so that pickup and delivery do not take a lot of road time. 

Evaluate a dealership’s service center

Try to find out how big the dealership is and even spend some time in its service center. Ask yourself the following questions: 

• Are there a lot of customers?

• Does the service department look professional?

• Does it sell detailing to the public?

• Does it have an in-house detail center?

• What services does it already offer?

• What is the name and title of the person in charge of the detail department (not the detail manager, but the boss)?  

Determine what you have to offer

After determining which dealerships offer your business the greatest potential, define the services you can offer the dealership. In addition to detailing work or new car get-ready, you can also offer some simple, extra services, such as: 

• Headlight restoration

• Windshield repair

• Carpet dyeing and other carpet/upholstery services

• Guaranteed paint sealants

• Ceramic coatings.  

Create a prospectus about your business and yourself

Include information about the experience, education, training, years in business, background on you and your employees, etc. Be certain it is professional, even if it means hiring a professional to create the information. It is a one-time cost, and a professional proposal will open the doors to new and repeat business.

Write a cover letter

Send a cover letter to the owner of the dealership or at least the general manager of the dealership. Be certain you have his or her name and title correct. Tell him or her what you offer and what makes you different than all the other detail businesses in the area. 

Offer the dealer benefits

Offer prices for regular volume work. Remember that volume does not necessarily mean you give a discount, unless you can reduce the time to do the work. For example, you can often do a one-step buff, polish and wax versus a three-step on a retail customer’s car. Include an estimated turnaround time for the work. What other benefits can you mention? 

Follow up 

Conclude the letter with a definitive day and time you will call to set up a meeting. Be patient, and follow through. It could take some time to get the appointment, but if you play your cards right — do not over-promise, and mean what you say — chances are you will be on your way to finding a new business partner that will bring stability to the detail operation at your carwash.

Remember, you offer so much more than the typical detail shop does, and you need to ensure the dealer knows this. You are an established business with insurance, regular employees, technical know-how, solid business and work ethics.


RL “Bud” Abraham has been in the carwash and detailing industries since 1969 and is considered one of the foremost experts in the field. He worked for several carwash manufacturers and started his own company, DETAIL PLUS, in 1986. He was the founder and first executive secretary of the International Detailing Association. Today, he offers consulting services on carwashing and/or detailing to operators and manufacturers. Contact Bud at [email protected].

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