Editorial - April 2006

Car Care World Expo
by Stefan Budricks, Editor-in-Chief

So close, but not quite. A few more attendees could have helped the International Carwash Association earn a triple trophy for its 2006 show. With record-setting floor space and more exhibitors than ever before at Car Care World Expo, the only measure that fell short of a record was attendance. By the ICA’s count, over 9,200 individuals registered for the show — and while this turnout does not quite reach the figure of 10,605 set in Las Vegas in 2004, exhibitors expressed overall satisfaction with the traffic in the exhibit hall.

The most exciting news, however, was that there were 80 first-time exhibitors at the show and that 100 new products were being unveiled on the exhibit floor for the first time. This is evidence of an innovative, growing, and ever-evolving industry. Of particular note was the slew of friction in-bay automatics that debuted at the show. These included the FreeStyler from Belanger, the Odyssey from D&S, the i3 BayWash from Christ and i5 BayWash from Sonny’s, and the FusionX from Jim Coleman. There was also a friction in-bay from Istobal on display, marking this brand’s first appearance at the show.

Following a tragic fatal accident in February at a Connecticut car wash, the ICA acted with commendable speed in arranging a roundtable discussion on the subject of Jeep Cherokee Sudden Acceleration — a reemerging 10-year-old issue. Turnout was remarkable, especially given the scheduled hour — 6:30 a.m. in Las Vegas! By a show of hands, approximately 80 percent of those present (my guesstimate) indicated that they had experienced such an incident at their locations. Around 50 percent (again, my guesstimate) had experienced it in the past year.

Suggestions from the floor included “getting Chrysler to acknowledge that there is a problem,” “creating an ICA taskforce,” “contracting with an engineering firm to study the issue,” and “contacting other industry groups that may have experienced similar problems, such as the Automotive Oil Change Association and the parking-lot people.” There were calls for car washes to stop washing these particular vehicles. The ICA board will consider the information gathered and suggestions made at this roundtable discussion in deciding what the association’s role will be in this important matter.

It’s sometimes wise to give rent-a-speaker presentations wide berth. They often amount to little more than rah-rah speeches in support of book/tape sales. Phil Lempert’s presentation, Consumer Trends in the Car Wash Industry, held promise, though. Much of the content was of generic nature. The five hot trends he identified, for example, were consumer command of the shopping experience, health, environmental issues, identity protection, and community-based businesses.

Lempert had some very specific car wash information for the audience, however. He had recently surveyed his web-based consumer panel about car washing habits and revealed that 11 percent wash their cars once a week, 22 percent once a month, 13 percent three or four times a year, and a too-high 31 percent wash only as needed. Mercifully, only 3 percent answered, “never.” Forty-four percent of his survey respondents choose a car wash because it is most convenient, while 22 percent go where they get the best wash. An equal percentage chooses a wash because it’s the cheapest. (For full details on the survey, go to www.supermarketguru.com and select “Quickpoll.”)

Car Care World Expo offered a lot to see and a lot to learn. It was a great show! If you did not make it to Las Vegas in 2006, you can’t afford to miss Car Care World Expo in 2007. See you there!

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