Conventions in Las Vegas often feature topics that are somewhat technical. Therefore, what a relief to see a show simply titled, “The Car Wash Show”. Those were the words on the flags outside the Sands Expo Center May 2-4 and the words on the interior signs. The International Carwash Association sponsors the show and does give the show a proper name, “Car Care World Expo 2011”, but for clarity just calls it “The Car Wash Show”.
As familiar as the words “car wash” are to drivers, lots can be learned at a car wash show. Did you know, for example, that a Korean company, SJE Corporation, is now marketing machines that provide “steam” car wash equipment. The equipment removes dirt, stains and grease as well as deodorizes and sterilizes surfaces, yet consumes as little as one gallon of water per car wash?
Or did you know that a franchise opportunity with Cactus Car Wash (big in the southeast U.S.) means establishing a car wash with a plush customer lounge featuring plasma television, complimentary internet access and a gourmet coffee bar?
I was curious about Cactus Car Wash and was given the following information: “As our franchise disclosure document describes in detail, in 2007 our two Georgia facilities generated sales revenue of $8.8 million. Two of our South Carolina facilities generated sales revenue of $3.9 million. But please be aware that developing a Cactus Car Wash is an expensive proposition – we expect start-up costs to be $1.8 million to $2.8 million exclusive of purchasing land, and that a franchisee will need at least $700,000 in cash to invest.” (Thanks. I’ll take three.)
According the the International Carwash Association (yes, “carwash” is one word in the association title and two words on the show posters…go figure), car washes protect a car’s value, provide satisfaction to the owner and are good for the environment. Claire Darmanin, International Carwash Association COO, told me that a great part of the association’s work is education, for example, letting people know that a professional car wash can consume far less water than that used during a home car wash.
Darmanin also noted that attendance at the 2011 Car Wash Show is estimated at between 5500 and 6000 people. (In the accompanying video, the figure of 1100 attendees is mentioned; that was LVCVA’s early calendar estimate.) The 2011 show attendance equals last year’s attendance. Darmanin noted that the last couple of years have been hard for the car wash industry, but says the industry is “on the way back”. At the show, a magazine rack listed a number of publcations targeting the car wash industry, but Darmanin noted the association will begin publishing its own magazine later this year.
Visiting the International Carwash Association website, we get a brief look at car wash history. Around 1928, the idea of a mechanical, chain-pulled car wash evolved, resulting in the first true conveyor car wash. The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the involvement in World War II slowed technological development. However, after World War II, the industry grew quickly. The first automatic car wash in the U.S. opened in Detroit in 1946.
America currently has 22,000 car washes employing 500,000 people. The industry average is that U.S. car washes each serve about 70,000 customers a year. More than half of this country’s car owners regularly visit professional car washes.
Note: The Southern Nevada Water Authority lists water smart car washes in the Las Vegas area. Coupons are available for the authority’s “car wash partners” at this website.