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Photo courtesy of OPW Vehicle Wash Systems

For the vehicle wash industry in the United States, early signs indicate that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has been less than expected. Of course, the preliminary figures of the National Road Safety Administration show a decline in vehicle use last year, but according to market research by the International Car Wash Association, the industry was in a strong position at the start of 2020, with more than 2 billion vehicles washed in 2019.

This claim that car washing did not become an afterthought in 2020 is supported by informal comments from car wash distributors that show sales of chemicals, as well as the number of washes, have remained strong. in 2020, which is surprisingly good news at a time when so many other industries are struggling.

As 2021 approaches, there are several revenue strategies and new service offering opportunities for vehicle wash location operators with touchless or soft touch Automatic Bay Wash (IBA) systems. whether traditional stand-alone operations or refueling / convenience stores. .

One of the main advantages of IBAs is that they require a smaller physical footprint compared to the traditional tunnel and are less expensive to operate, mainly because they do not require dedicated personnel to facilitate the washing process. Many drivers prefer non-contact / soft touch IBAs due to their smooth handling of the vehicle. Drivers also appreciate the many wash options that can be made available, creating a wash menu that ranges from basic to high end.

With so many ancillary washing services now available, IBA operators must develop a strategic plan when constructing their washing packages and pricing structure, one that maximizes the effects of ancillary offers. Concretely, an à la carte type price menu does not always make sense. For example, if retailers call something a “premium” wash and charge $ 13 for it, does it make sense to ask the driver an additional $ 3 for a glossy finish or targeted tire treatment? Does this make the enhanced wash “super premium?” “

Instead, more and more retailers are raising the price of a high-end wash while offering the full range of services at no optional extra cost. This is a good approach to take as more and more drivers are using credit cards to pay for their washes, which simply involves inserting or swiping through a card reader, without rummaging through a wallet or purse. hand to see if they have the correct amount of cash on hand to pay for the service.

In terms of specific additional services that can be a boon to generate additional revenue, three stand out, all of which have been used by tunnel tunnel operators for a few years, but can be easily adapted for use in IBA systems:

  • Ceramic coating: This is a newer technology that has gained popularity in the tunnel market and is now available to IBA operators. In the application of the ceramic coating, a low pressure coat of ceramic chemical is applied to the vehicle via the spray arms of the wash, resulting in a high gloss and very smooth finish on every surface of the vehicle, including the paint, the washers. toppings and glass. IBA operators who have started offering ceramic finishes are finding that drivers are willing to pay $ 2-3 more for this option.
  • Glossy finishes: Part of the so-called ‘lava and lights’ experience that so many drivers and their passengers find appealing, these application systems drape the vehicle in a thick sheet of multi-colored high-gloss wax while strategically placed LED lights light up and go out during the washing process. The result is a washing experience that keeps the customer engaged in the process while simultaneously ensuring the vehicle comes out of the wash bay with a clean, glossy finish.
  • Tire treatments: This service is quite common in conveyor tunnel systems, but advancements in the way tire handling equipment is deployed can now make it a cost-effective additional service for IBA operators. There are currently two notable options for washing operators:
    • High pressure wheel blasters comprising a pair of centrifuges stacked on either side of the wash bay fitted with zero degree nozzles which wash the tires from multiple angles
    • Advanced tire polishing equipment that allows extension of application brushes to suit vehicle tires. This has made a lucrative additional service available only in the tunnels for operators in the bay who can now take advantage of an additional service for which customers have shown their willingness to pay a premium.

More than ever, drivers want value when washing their vehicles, but at the same time they are looking for more than just a wash, even at the height of a global pandemic that has forced many to change their habits usual conduct. While drivers are willing to pay more for a premium wash, they will only continue to do so if the additional services they receive are deemed to be worth the extra cost, even long after they’ve left the wash bay. To this end, there is now a new range of additional service options, many of which were once considered ‘tunnel only’, available to IBA car wash operators. If properly deployed, these services can lead to happier customers and a significant increase in the revenue stream and bottom line of the wash operation.

This article is sponsored by OPW Vehicle Wash Solutions

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