These days, tech is what separates new cars from older models. The latest developments in connected capabilities are what consumers clamor for and what automakers obligingly provide. So if you go to the auto show to look for how the current crop of new cars compares to the previous lot, the differences will, in large part, be out of sight. Oh, you’re bound to see a nip or a tuck here and there, a tweaking of the grill or the taillight assembly, but overall cars retain their appearance for several model years.
This was again my experience during a visit to the 2019 Phoenix Auto Show the day after Thanksgiving. Styling for the most part departed little from the past. Gone are the days when the introduction of every new model year was anticipated with great excitement. The sight of a ’59 Chevy’s tail end still sets my heart aflutter, while the 1958 model does absolutely nothing for me. Perhaps the most notable evolution on this year’s show floor was the dominance of SUVs and pickup trucks — an already identified trend of which car washers are well aware.
So, I turned to the interiors — the space where motorists and their passengers spend most of their auto-related time and where cleanliness is more than a visual quality. As all new cars are now to some extent connected, infotainment screens have become ubiquitous. They are either incorporated in the dashboard design, which facilitates interior cleaning, or they are affixed to the dashboard in pop-up style or as a stuck-on afterthought, which complicates cleaning. Traditional instrumentation is giving way to the digital cockpit, a design that provides a smooth surface for fast an easy cleaning.
GlobalData, a London, UK-based data and analytics company, foresees passenger-car users demanding higher interior cleanliness standards as ride sharing, ride hailing, and, eventually, autonomous vehicles become more commonplace. In an analysis released in December last year, it reports that interior component suppliers are actively working to meet this expected demand by trying to provide highly hygienic, sanitized cockpits regardless of how many occupants share the space in a day.
While GlobalData is looking to the future, some in the car wash industry have long recognized a need for more than run-of-the-mill interior cleaning. In the August 2013 issue of Auto Laundry News, Jeff Coplin, co-owner of Matt & Jeff’s Car Wash in Novato, CA, wrote about a premium interior sanitizing service they’d introduced called “Targeted Interior Germbuster.” The creation of this service grew from university studies, many of which enjoyed television coverage, that found high levels of contaminants in auto interiors — from e-coli in floor mats to fungus in vents. And this relates to the family car, not a vehicle subject to multi-person usage.
Matt & Jeff’s Car Wash identified a need and designed a service to meet it long before the potential scope of that need became evident. In today’s car wash environment, the focus rests squarely on exterior cleaning — express exterior cleaning, specifically. This focus ought not to be so narrow as to lose sight of the potential opportunities that could arise from advances in mobility.