More Evolution Than Revolution in the Carwash Business
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More Evolution Than Revolution in the Carwash Business

On July 14th, 2016, the executives of Kärcher, Istobal, WashTec and Sonax companies met in Stuttgart to discuss future megatrends in car wash business and changes that car wash businesses had to go through in recent years.

The panel discussion — held at the Stuttgart Trade Fair with Stephan Weber (Chairman WashTec), Rafael Tomás (CEO Istobal), Gerhard Stadler (Head of Global Sales & Product Manager Kärcher) and Patrick Ginster (Head of Sales Sonax) — took only one hour but offered listeners a quick overview of the current state of the car wash business and what the future could bring. The topics covered included the importance of brands, car wash brushes, the role of car wash operators, chemicals and future mega trends.

Panel discussion UnitiExpo

The assembly confirmed that the perfect equation for car wash operators and final clients is the combination of : “Fast + Convenient + Glossy + Good price”. Like in any other business, the customer wants everything while paying less, which is very difficult to fulfil.

Patrick Ginster, the Head of Carwash Sonax, expressed that the lack of positioning and branding can be a problem. Car wash operators and owners should know what they want to offer, how they want to differentiate themselves in the market, and how to sell their brand. This branding is particularly successful at a local level in private carwash centers that build their success not only on quality but also on loyalty programs.

It was also pointed out that branding at the level of petrol station carwashes is complicated, as the carwash is only a complement of the services given there. However, there is a positive tendency recorded – petrol stations are putting more and more emphasis on carwashes, as they want to provide a complete positive experience on all services and products provided. During the discussion, it was also explained that branding is more successful in Asia and South America than in Europe.

As for car wash chemicals, the effectiveness is, of course, very important, but the effects (let’s say “the special effects”) are more importance for the customer. Even if there is no practical difference in red or green foam used for washing your car, people like the visual effect, as it is part of the carwash experience. The aspect to be improved could be the final glossy effect.


Colored foam

And what about car wash brushes? Are better carwash brushes shafts with or without joints? And what about shaped brushes? Tomas Rafael admitted that for the customer is basically the same experience, regardless of material or technical parameters, whereas for expert the brush experience is fundamental.

Shaped foam brushes

Finally, the discussion touched on the topic of future carwash megatrends. Whereas the moderator was worried about the carwash future in relation with self-cleaning cars, the assembly thought that there would be more evolution than revolution. Carwashes need to be easier for the customer to use, offer better payment methods, and be more environmentally sustainable.


Self-cleaning car by Nissan



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