The car wash industry has been in an upward trend for the past few years and many are asking the question “where is the car wash industry heading?”. There have been a number of articles and conversations about this subject, however I believe that most of them just reiterate what is actually happening in the industry right now. I believe the car wash industry is headed to an exciting place in the next in the next 5 to 10 years, but it will look a lot different.
Focusing, understanding and marketing towards millennials is the key to the next generation of successful car washing businesses. Millennials have exponential purchasing power and influence in their social networks. Their influence can already be seen in other industries like the toy, beauty and restaurant industries. These industries are already altering their business models to compete in this new arena. I believe that the car wash industry will continue to grow and change at an extreme pace and will weed out the businesses that fail to keep up with the times.
Below is a list of changes that I feel will really speak to the next generation of car wash industry leaders.
Unlimited Car Wash – In other industries subscription services are all the rage. There are beauty boxes, dinner services, clothing services and more. In the car wash industry unlimited washes are making waves in many big markets. These car washes are thriving. I believe in the next 5 years unlimited washes will continue to grow and you will see a loyal following for the quality car wash establishments. At a point I see the car wash will be able to be exclusive and only offer its services to those who sign up for an unlimited membership. The unlimited system will deliver the most loyal of customers however this will create a new challenge of how to decrease the cost of washing cars.
“The Show” – LED lights that have taken the industry by storm and we are only getting started. The LEDs in the car wash industry have gotten better and better and will offer consumers more show and will continue to get increasingly more efficient and more spectacular. We will drive customers through the show and entertainment value of car wash instead of the sheer quality and hands on touch in the past. these will let us also be able to change the design and show on the fly to keep the customers coming back again and again to see a different show.
Speed of Service – The tunnels are already pretty efficient in this regard but the name of the game is speed of service and IBAs will get faster and faster, time is money in all regards. This type of equipment will need to stand the test of time and be able of washing 30 plus cars per hour. Do not be fooled with perceived value, we as a society, are so strapped for time and people will pay more for less time. 30 second wash in the future? I wouldn’t bet against it.
Automation – Automation will continue to increase at a spectacular pace and we will have systems in place to monitor our doors, chemicals, temperatures, rails and other pieces of equipment. These systems will notify us even better and faster of problems or preventative maintenance issues making the owners more and more passive. Automatic ordering processes will make streamlining the chemical and parts inventory of owners seamless.
Renewable energy – I believe that within the next 5 years we will start to see more and more solar panels in use in the car wash industry and in 10 years you will see us implement the solar technologies in things such as the water heaters and floor heating or recirculating systems. Renewable energy will be a huge component in reducing the overall Cost Per Car average.
Chemistry – The chemistry in the car wash industry will continue to offer premium items and come up with new and better up sale items. The chemicals used will clean better, dry better and leave a shinier surface on the vehicle. Reclaim compatible chemicals will become better and more used throughout the states. Dyes used in the chemicals will reduce and will be replaced by perfect placement of LED lights.
It is truly a great time to be a part of the car wash industry, consumers are spending money and wash numbers are up. The will continue to increase and those who offer the newest and most innovative equipment will be handsomely rewarded. I can not express enough that right now is the time to differentiate yourself, and invest in your wash. In the words of Rick Bobby “if you ain’t first, your last!” If your excited now with the innovation in the car wash industry, just wait the best is yet to come.