Auto Laundry News - January 2011

WCA Wrap-Up — International Detailing Association Participation

By Prentice St. Clair

The author tries out a new line of buffing pads at the IDA’s Interactive Product Showcase, held at the 2010 WCA Convention.

The Western Carwash Association (WCA) held its annual Convention and Trade Show October 11-13, 2010 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas. The International Detailing Association (IDA) participated in the event in its ongoing effort to connect with professional detailers, car wash operators, and suppliers to the detailing industry.

The IDA was involved in several ways, offering an educational session, a roundtable session, a tradeshow booth with area for networking, as well as an interactive product showcase. For those who could not attend, here is a wrap-up of the show. I suggest that both those involved in the professional detailing community as well as those in the car wash community take a few moments to read through this column. Doing so will help you understand what the IDA is up to.


Most would agree that attendance at this year’s WCA tradeshow was decidedly less than in years past. Nonetheless, there was still a significant presence of decision makers. Moreover, there was no lack of activity at the IDA’s booth, which was manned by members of the IDA board of directors, whose dedication and enthusiasm was a virtual magnet to passing car wash operators. Directors Keith Duplessie, Erik Jeffries, Bob Phillips, and myself assisted in the effort.


The IDA presence featured an oversized booth for this event. We took full advantage of the space and actually brought a car onto the tradeshow floor, parking it right in the middle of our booth. “Why?” you may ask. The red 1998 Pontiac Trans Am acted as a “guinea pig” for attendees to actually try out equipment and products that were on display in our “Interactive Product Showcase.”

Believed to be the first-of-its-kind at a car wash tradeshow, the interactive product showcase allowed detailing product manufacturers and suppliers the opportunity to not only display their wares, but also have those items available to attendees to try out for themselves under the guidance of the IDA representatives. We ended up with 10 showcase participants.

Among the chemicals on display were a number of cleaning chemicals for several vehicle surfaces; several competing paint protection products; specialized chemicals, such as stain removers and convertible-top care products; as well as a line of eco-friendly chemicals. In addition, some tools of the trade were available for hands-on testing, including a selection of buffing pads, polishers, steam machines, and a headlamp clarification kit. Finally, some detailing educational materials were available for examination.

The unique nature of our booth set-up attracted attention from car wash operators who may not have necessarily given thought to detailing. Additionally, several car wash owners who currently offer or who have considered offering detailing to their car wash customers, migrated to the booth with questions for the IDA crew and expressed a need
for information about new and different detailing products and chemicals.

Moreover, there were several professional detailing operators who spent time at the booth, trying out products and networking with fellow detailers, sharing tips and tricks.

All involved agreed that the IDA booth concept was a great success, regardless of the number of overall show attendees. I can tell you from my personal experience that there was never a dull moment. During the first day, I remember checking the clock at about 9:00 a.m. while entering into a conversation with an attendee. The next time I had a chance to check my phone, it was 3:00 p.m. It seemed like every time I glanced around to check on the other IDA directors, they were busy in conversation with or assisting an attendee in using one of the products on display.


In addition to the booth, the IDA sponsored two sessions that took place the day before the tradeshow during the WCA’s educational program. The first session was presented by Ron Cates, who is Constant Contact’s development director for the Southwest region. Ron shared some interesting facts about the effectiveness of e-mail marketing versus other forms of marketing.

Ron suggested that e-mail marketing not be used to “sell my stuff” but more for building relationships and trust through the offering of expertise and information. He cited studies that show consumers will pay more because of
an established relationship. He also suggested that e-mail marketing is becoming one of the most preferred marketing channels among consumers.

Ron told us of the importance of getting into the habit of collecting e-mail information, just like we have always done with addresses and phone numbers. Explain to the customer that you would like to add them to your newsletter e-mail list.

Additionally, Ron helped us understand some of the nuances of e-mail marketing, like making sure the e-mails are getting delivered and increasing “open” rates. Simple adjustments can make a large difference in your e-mail getting through, like having a real name on the “from line” and a simple, short subject line. One very important aspect is the design of the e-mail communication: Does it look professional or homemade?

All in all, Ron left us with some eye-opening thoughts on the potential importance and impact of this type of marketing.

The second session was a “round-table” discussion, open to anyone with questions or concerns about detailing. Participants could direct their questions to any of the four IDA directors in attendance. Many of the other participants also had additional comments about each question. It was a terrific exchange of information.

Among the topics discussed was the use of and safety concerns associated with hydrofluoric acid for detailing and car washing. The general consensus was that acid should be avoided as much as possible, but when it must be used, protective gear must be provided, including nitrile gloves, aprons, and a full-face shield.

This led to a discussion of the implications of California’s Proposition 65 for detailers. The legislation prohibits businesses from knowingly discharging dangerous substances into drinking water sources, or onto land where the substances can pass into drinking water. It also prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing individuals to dangerous substances without providing a clear and reasonable warning.

This discussion evolved into a conversation about the increasing popularity of the use of waterless car washing. Others asked about individual business owners’ personal opinions about the most efficient marketing tools, what chemicals to use, and what to do about rainy days.

Those in attendance expressed appreciation for the roundtable session.


During the trade show, the IDA presented Bud Abraham of Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems with a commemorative plaque in appreciation of his leadership as the founder and first executive director of the IDA. Thanks, Bud!


Those who are reading this column who were not able to attend the WCA trade show are encouraged to get involved. The first thing to do, is to go to the IDA website and join ( Then visit the site often and keep informed about upcoming events.

The IDA is planning a significant presence at the 2011 Car Care World Expo, put on by the International Carwash Association. I encourage you to start planning and saving for your travel to this event, which will be held in Las Vegas May 2-4, 2011. The IDA will likely offer several educational sessions, a detailing pavilion with an interactive product showcase, live demonstrations, and plenty of networking opportunities.

The IDA is a “trade association by, for, and about detailing and detailers.” It is made stronger by increased membership. Thus, another way that you can get involved is to encourage fellow operators in your area to check it out. The more members join, the more resources the association will have, which means the more benefits the association will be able to roll out for all members.

Prentice St. Clair is president of Detail in Progress, a San Diego-based automotive reconditioning consulting firm. To contact him, e-mail or call (619) 701-1100.

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