Detailing - January 2010

International Detailing Association —
Plans and Programs

IDA Board of Directors

Erik Jeffries (president), Cyclo Toolmakers

Anthony Flammia (operator vice president), Gias Detailing

Rick Goldstein (supplier vice president), RaggTopp

Prentice St. Clair (treasurer), Detail in Progress

Keith Duplessie, Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems

Skip Reisert, Skip’s Yacht Detailing Rick Sures, Allied Chemicals

Detailers first organized as an industry in the early ‘90s under the banner of the Professional Detailing Association (PDA). Membership grew to a healthy 500 at one time, but by the middle of the decade enthusiasm had waned and the organization disappeared from the scene. Another attempt at organizing followed with the formation of the Professional Detail Technicians Association (PDTA), which morphed into the National Association for Professional Detailing & Reconditioning (NAPDR). The latter ended its run last year.

The International Detailing Association (IDA) was formed in 2008 and, co-opting some of the ideas and personalities that led to the PDA’s early success, is set to take off. Auto Laundry News spoke with the Bud Abraham, the IDA’s executive director, about the association’s plans and programs.

ALN: How many members do you have and what challenges do you face in building on that number?

BUD ABRAHAM: Current membership stands at somewhere over 100. That includes suppliers.

All associations seem to be struggling for membership these days. It’s the same in other trades. Part of it, I think, is the economy. But one of the major factors is that potential members of associations feel they can get what they need without joining an organization. The challenge is to provide something for members that they cannot get somewhere else.

The Internet has made it very easy and less costly for us to reach detailers and suppliers and to interact with members. On the flipside, however, the Internet has really hurt us. When we started the PDA in the early ‘90s, there was no Internet, so people really did not have any way to get information; they did not have any way to connect with one another. Now you have this Internet community of detailers; you have several forums to choose from. There are just tremendous resources available. That’s one of the reasons we are not getting membership as rapidly as we did before, because the guys don’t feel as alone as they did before.

Another challenge is to overcome history. Previous attempts at forming and sustaining a detail association have disappointed. That’s part of why the board agreed to give members of the NAPDR free membership in IDA through January 30, 2010. That way they can try us and see how viable we are.

Obviously for the IDA, the first bank of membership must come from the detail suppliers and detail distributors, and it has to come directly from the detailers. Operators pay $50, distributor pay $100, and manufacturers pay $250. There’s a huge universe out there. There are 15,000 detail shops listed in the Yellow Pages. There are 17,000 car washes.

What are the goals of the IDA?

The IDA’s goal, in general terms, is to professionalize the industry, meaning, more specifically, to have the consumer recognize auto detailing as a legitimate auto service. Our goal is to uplift the back-alley detailers, the weekend warriors. We want everybody who wants to be in the business to be reflective of a professional business. Right now it’s like a shoeshine stand. Anyone with a can of wax and a shop vac is a detailer. And the consumer does not know any different.

How does the IDA plan to attain its goals?

One of the programs we hope to kick off by 2010 is a two-phase detail certification program. Phase 1 will be a knowledge and information test, and we hope to have that online in January. We will have maybe 10 to 15 online tests. Candidates will pay a fee to take the test. When they pass one test, they move onto the next one. The topics will include chemicals, paint finishes, paint finish problems, proper carpet and upholstery cleaning, stain removal, odor removal, and safety.

It’s not training, it’s a test. They are going to have to get the knowledge and information from other sources. We are just coming up with the questions. We do not want to compete with the training programs of any of our supplier members. Our goal is to work with them. Their training programs educate these people to enable them to pass the test. Our goal is to see how much knowledge they have. We are not going to attempt to set the rules on how you detail an engine, how you detail an interior, etc.

Once they pass all 10 or 15 informational tests, the next phase will kick in. The idea of phase 2 is to test whether a detailer can look at a car, diagnose the problem, and then know what to do to correct the problem. We want them to have the technical knowledge to diagnose the problem and the skills to correct it. We will set up testing sites around the country where they can go to be tested on their detailing prowess. We see phase 2 as probably a year away. It all depends on how fast phase 1 takes off.

When we are able to certify members as detail technicians, there are plans to provide management help for them. At this point, we are serving only as a reference source. If members need help/advice on how to run a business, we refer them to existing sources of small business information.

Soon, we will have an environmental and regulatory page on our website. We’ve spent a lot of time putting together all of the links and websites and information that a detailer needs to know to be environmentally and regulatory compliant. This, too, is part of professionalizing the business. The problem is that the federal EPA requires states to establish a regulatory agency. In Oregon, for example, we have the Department of Environmental Quality. The states, in turn, require local authorities to enforce the law in their jurisdictions. The problem is that you don’t get consistent enforcement. You have some municipalities that feed wrong information. So it’s important for detailers to know what the regulatory requirements are. We have, for example, added a link to the California registration law as many California detailers seem to be unaware that they, along with other car washing and polishing businesses, are required to register with the state.

Does the IDA provide other programs and benefits for its members?

By the end of the year [2009], we should have on our website a Glossary of Detail Terms. The intent again is to professionalize the business — you have to get people to speak a common language. When you say wax today or you say polish, people have 10 different definitions.

We are also conducting a detail business survey. It’s a little different than the surveys the trade magazines do. Their information, I think, tends to be a little too much car wash oriented. This survey will be valuable to an existing detailer in terms of knowing how his business is going, and what’s going on in his area of the country. It will be valuable to suppliers to know what operators are saying about the business and the industry, what they use and don’t use. And, of course, it will be valuable to someone who is looking to get into the industry.

One of the top items on members’ wish list is a consumer more educated in detailing. To do a national consumer education program would cost millions. What we are doing is working the PR angle. We are slowly trying to educate our members to become public relations directors in their own market place — to know how to go to the media with a story that’s printable. In our last newsletter, we published a press release that they could customize and send to the newspapers and radio and TV stations in their markets with the hope that they would get some publicity. That’s what it is really all about. Nobody wants a national program. What they want is a program that is going to affect the customers in their marketplace. What you have to do is develop a program that the guy can use for himself, because he doesn’t want to do PR for the detail shop in Phoenix or in Portland; he wants to do PR for his own operation — his own market and his own business. Our goal is to equip these people with the tools they can use for that purpose.

What about trade shows?

We have entered into a partnership with Car Care World Expo for 2010. They will establish a detail pavilion on the tradeshow floor for detail suppliers only. And they will allow us to put on an education track. There will be some revenue sharing on the booth-space sales in the pavilion. That will be a jumpstart source of income for the IDA. Hopefully the relationship will continue, and CCWE will become our home.

We are also considering reviving the Road Show approach that worked well for the PDA in the ‘90s. It’s a way to take the IDA to the people, putting on detailing seminars in key cities around the country. Implementation will depend on improvement in the economy and will certainly have to wait until after CCWE.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the association, visit the IDA’s website (

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