Drivin' Through - May 2007

Car Care World Expo 2007
by Stefan Budricks, Editor

The number is in, and it is, frankly, disappointing. According to Mark Thorsby, the executive director of the International Carwash Association, the final unaudited attendance figure for Car Care World Expo 2007 stands at 9,017. An ICA Las Vegas show hasn’t tested the 9,000 level like this in many a year.

What could account for this? It is true that for many operators 2006/2007 has offered abysmal car washing weather. Besides, as Thorsby reasonably points out, Car Care World Expo was scheduled too early for many operators who still found themselves in what should be prime wash time in a large chunk of the country. Attendance at previous shows tends to confirm this assessment. Last year the show (held even earlier, from March 13 to 15) drew 9,260 to Las Vegas. The all-time attendance record of 10,605 in Las Vegas was set in 2004, at a show held well into the second quarter — April 29 to May 1.

Absence from Las Vegas every third year weakened the ICA’s bargaining position with regard to preferred show dates, according to Thorsby. This impediment is about to be removed. Two years ago in this space, we reported on rumors at the San Antonio Show that the ICA was reconsidering its policy of leaving Las Vegas every third year. Well,the association has reconsidered, and it has decided. Orlando 2008 will be Car Care World Expo’s last departure from Las Vegas. Starting in 2009, “Sin City” becomes the permanent home of the ICA’s annual event.

To add fuel to our rumor report, we implored the association membership to start agitating without delay for a change of venue, dismissing the Hilton/Las Vegas Convention Center co-operative as “past it.” With its show’s newly acquired Las Vegas permanence, Thorsby believes the ICA now has the negotiating muscle to make an equitable deal with either the reportedly pricey Mandalay Bay or the recently expanded (and soon to be expanded again) Sands. Each of these venues, it should be acknowledged, brings its own unique set of hurdles.

Car washers are a hardy bunch, though, and hurdles are there to overcome. That is, if you follow the advice of Vic Odermat, one of this year’s inductees into the Car Wash Hall of Fame — an honor made all the sweeter as it coincided with the 50th anniversary of Odermat’s company. Many years ago, Odermat introduced me to a quote from Calvin Coolidge, which I was quite surprised he did not reference in his acceptance speech as it clearly influenced much of his life: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is filled with educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

It surely requires a large measure of persistence to build a car wash chain consisting of 47 locations, with more probably being added as this magazine goes to press. This is the accomplishment of Chuck Howard, owner and CEO of the Autobell chain and the second Car Wash Hall of Fame inductee for 2007. The late Charles Howard, Chuck Howard’s father, who was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, founded the company in Charlotte in 1969. Chuck Howard not only recognized the generation that preceded him, the one following him, and the one waiting in the wings, he also acknowledged his larger family, the Autobell family, all 1,200 of them.

Next year, the extended car wash family will meet in Orlando, and we’ll be happy for it. It will be good, though, to “come home” to Vegas in 2009.

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