In Professional Carwashing & Detailing’s (PC&D) 2017 Top 50 List of U.S. Conveyor Carwashes, one company, through aggressive acquisition, made the list. This is not rare. We often encounter changes on the list each year, but it’s usually in the bottom half. However, a new company causing significant changes in the annual list’s top three is a little less common.
As we noted in the November 2017 issue when this occurrence took place, “Second place now belongs to a company still relatively new to the U.S. sector: International Car Wash Group (ICWG). ICWG entered the U.S. market in 2015. While its American portfolio already contained multiple chains, including Car Wash USA Express, in August 2017 it also acquired Goo-Goo Express Wash. Goo-Goo Express Wash and Car Wash USA Express were on our 2016 Top 50 list in fourth and 13th places respectively.”
In 2018, ICWG dropped one spot to third on our list with a robust 134 locations. But, if you have followed our publication and the company at www.icwg.com, you know that ICWG is not just any ordinary new investor to enter the carwashing market.
New to this market only
While ICWG is considered relatively new to the U.S. professional carwashing scene, it has steadily grown to include 150 locations in its portfolio. Purchased by Roark Capital in August 2017, ICWG’s team is experienced in carwashing and strategic investment opportunities. Still, its biggest impact in recent years has reached far beyond our borders.
ICWG is known under the brand name “IMO” in Europe and the Asia Pacific. IMO was founded in 1965 in Germany, which boasts having over 320 IMO sites alone. According to a recent company press release, ICWG has cleaned more than 35 million cars annually at more than 900 carwash locations in 14 countries across the U.S., Europe and Australia.
Now targeting the growing U.S. conveyor carwash segment, ICWG recently named a new CEO, Thomas B. Mangas. The chain’s stated goals are lofty: to solidify its global leadership position by becoming the U.S. market leader.
We recently connected with Mangas and asked some pointed questions about the chain’s growth strategy and its goals for the coming year.
PC&D| Please share your background as well as the ICWG’s history internationally and in the U.S.
TM | ICWG was founded in Germany in 1965 under the IMO brand, which is the name still used at all of our non-U.S. locations. We now have more than 720 sites in Europe and 23 sites in Australia with more in development.
Our company first entered the U.S. market in 2015 and made four large-scale acquisitions, giving us 150 sites open and in development that operate under the Car Wash USA Express, Goo-Goo Express Wash and Supersonic brands. Roark Capital Group acquired the company in 2017, infusing us with significant resources so we can double down on our commitment to the U.S.
I joined the company in October 2018. The opportunity makes terrific use of my strong consumer packaged goods and hospitality background, especially my expertise in driving top- and bottom-line growth in global consumer-focused businesses.
Before joining ICWG, I was chief financial officer and CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts. I spent a large portion of my earlier career at Armstrong Industries and Procter & Gamble (P&G).
PC&D| As ICWG looks to take an “aggressive global to local approach,” can you please describe the growth strategies you are planning to implement and the goals you’re looking to achieve?
TM | Our goals for the foreseeable future are two-fold: to provide the most satisfying carwash experience and to continue to expand our footprint.
We are executing against a global vision to deliver best-in-class regional and local services that reflect our companies’ and customers’ values. Being the largest in the business gives us significant resources and economies of scale, enabling us to invest in our people, our facilities, and our services and products.
A key part of our strategy is to become the “acquirer of choice,” so if any of your readers are potentially interested in selling, we would love to talk with them. To be sure, we are also investing in greenfields and are looking at creative partnerships for expanding our development.
Here in the U.S., we will continue to operate a regional brand strategy that will see us investing in and enhancing regional brands that customers depend upon for keeping their cars clean and looking like new.
We are also continuously looking to pioneer new and proprietary products for our customers. One example is the exclusive global launch at all of our sites of Polymer Pro (known as Ultra HD in our international markets). It offers paint protection that rivals hand wax shine and superior protection from street grime and acid rain.
PC&D| How does the American carwashing market differ from others the company has served overseas? What similarities exist?
TM | The U.S. market is different from overseas in two key ways. First, the U.S. has the most diverse number of carwashing formats compared to Europe and Australia. For example, in the U.K., the consumer is really only choosing between hand washing and conveyors — and IMO is the only conveyor option. Outside of Germany, there simply are not that many conveyor carwashes.
The second difference is the fact that America has more of a car culture than overseas. There are more cars per household, and Americans invest a lot to maintain their cars. As a result, the volume of cars and average spend per wash at our carwashes in the U.S. is higher than in Europe.
PC&D | Up until this point, ICWG has taken a “quieter approach” when securing its place in the U.S. Why, and how will this plan change moving forward?
TM | When we launched in the U.S., anonymity gave us the ability to operate more freely. In quick order, we executed four relatively large-scale acquisitions, which provided us a strong foundation.
Since then, we changed our name more appropriately to International Car Wash Group, or ICWG. We are now looking forward to building name recognition in the U.S. and aim to establish ourselves as the “acquirer of choice” for both large and smaller express carwash operators.
PC&D| Looking ahead, what are you most excited about when planning ICWG’s future in the U.S. professional carwashing and detailing market?
TM | I am really excited by the collaborative spirit of community that exists within the industry today. As the market leader, one long-term goal is to help elevate the professionalism and standards of the industry and elevate the way the industry is viewed by consumers. We also want people to know that they can build lifelong careers within this industry.
PC&D| Do you have anything else to add that our audience of carwash owners and operators should know about ICWG?
TM | As the world’s largest local carwash, we value the relationships that are at the heart of the local carwash business and will continue to invest in our employees, services and the communities where we live and serve.
One point I want to underscore is that we believe our employees are an invaluable asset. That’s why we are deeply committed to employee retention and respect the skills, knowledge and relationships that each employee brings to our family of brands.