Happy Birthday to a Long-Time Friend
When my predecessor, Mark Thorsby, shared his birthday wishes with Auto Laundry News on the occasion of its 50th birthday in 2003, he used the above title for his article. I thought it remains a fitting sentiment for me to share today. On behalf of the International Carwash Association, Happy 60th to Auto Laundry News!
Many will know that the International Carwash Association and Auto Laundry News share a common ancestry, with Robin King serving as the founder of the magazine and a primary organizer of the association (and later its executive director). It was his vision for the needs and opportunities facing a fledgling industry that gave rise to both organizations. Yet, even with that foresight, I’m sure that even he couldn’t have envisioned what the industry, Auto Laundry News, and the International Carwash Association have become today.
Sixty years can seem like a long time, but of course in reality it is not. The professional car wash industry is still in its early stages in many respects. We are just now beginning to see the third generation of many long-time car wash families taking leadership roles in their respective companies. Many can still go to their grandparents for stories about the “good old days” – meaning that our industry is still within the lifespan of many of its founders.
Yet, things are of course changing. Sixty years ago the U.S. population was booming, as was car ownership. Today, growth rates in both categories have slowed. Sixty years ago, labor was an essential ingredient for any professional car wash. Today, a car wash can be nearly 100 percent automated. Sixty years ago, almost all car washes were in North America and Europe. Today, developing economies like China, Brazil, and India with their skyrocketing automobile ownership rates will likely be the car wash growth opportunities of the future.
For third-generation leaders, and even those who are entering the business today, the road ahead will be fascinating.
It would be foolish to try to predict what things will look like too far out, but we know that the landscape will be very different. Automobile design and consumer preferences will certainly drive changes to how we process cars and the design of our sites. Economic trends and government policies will impact investment, ownership, and labor. But, if there is one theme to take from these early chapters of the car wash story, it is innovation — and I’m excited to watch what the next generations will imagine, invent, and revolutionize.
While there has been change in the industry over the past 60 years, one thing has remained steadfast — the value of Auto Laundry News. Finding an Auto Laundry News on the desk of a car wash owner is as ubiquitous as water in the wash bay. No other publication has served the industry so well for so long, as teacher, historian, and friend. Here’s to another 60 years of success for Auto Laundry News, and our great industry.