The print-publication business has faced as many challenges in recent years as has any industry. The upheaval wrought by the rapid adoption of the Internet as a content provider has witnessed the demise of many a newspaper and magazine that were once household names. That Auto Laundry News is today able to celebrate 60 years of continuous publication gives us cause for gratitude.
We are grateful to you our audience, who, due to your loyal readership over the years, have ensured that Auto Laundry News remained a viable advertising medium for the vendors to the car wash industry. We are grateful to our advertisers, who, through their loyal support over the years, have ensured that Auto Laundry News remained a viable business, thus able to provide the content its audience needs and wants.
Ten years ago in this column, on the occasion of the magazine’s 50th anniversary, we pointed out that no business manages to operate successfully for 50 years without the help and consistent support of customers, associates, and allies — in short, support from the industry it serves. This celebration is, therefore, as much yours as it is ours.
Celebrating an anniversary invites a recounting of the past — and we do a fair amount of that in this issue. Along with the reminiscence comes the inevitable accounting of how things have changed. We salute the advances, the new equipment, new wash materials, and new business models. While the conveyorized tunnel has undergone substantial adaptations here and there, its basic arrangement has proven to have staying power. The ‘60s saw the introduction of the self-service or coin-op car wash,
followed in the ‘70s by the advent of the in-bay automatic or rollover car wash.
It is not possible, however, to retrace the car wash story through the pages of Auto Laundry News without being struck by the element of truth in the saying, “The more things change the more they remain the same.” In the July 1958 issue of Auto Laundry News, for example, Robin King, the then managing editor of the magazine, laments the fact that “we are washing less cars today than we were a year ago.” He credits “the combination of a receding national economy and fewer new car sales…” Does that sound familiar to anybody? He had reason to complain: new-car sales for 1958 were headed for 4 million units, a drop of 50 percent compared to production figures for 1955. In the November 2011 issue, we grumbled about the 2010 new-car sales figures that stood at 11.6 million — quite a ways off the 17 million recorded in 2001.
The very first car wash consumer study was conducted by the Harris Poll in 1975. The results of the study — titled “What Does the Public Think about Car Washes?” — were presented at the International Carwash Association Convention in Chicago in June that year and reported in Auto Laundry News. Harris found that 40 percent of consumers “almost always” washed their cars at home — a number not far off the comparable 38 percent finding in the ICA’s 2005 Study of Consumer Car Washing Attitudes and Habits.
No anniversary celebration is complete without some speculation about the future, however brief. Starting on page 52 of this issue, Robert Roman considers where automation, self-service technologies, and robotics might take car washing in the perhaps not too distant future.