Exciting Trends for the Carwash Industry in 2023 and Beyond 

Exciting Trends for the Carwash Industry in 2023 and Beyond 

By Gretchen Matthews

The carwash industry is experiencing consistent and steady growth on a global scale. Recently, Convenience & Carwash Canada approached several companies to inquire about current trends and how they will impact the foreseeable future. Josh Hart, president of Airlift Doors, Inc., and Ian Burton, North American director of sales at Istobal USA, kindly gave in-depth responses. While they view the industry from different angles, they share similar ideas about what’s happening within it. Hart and Burton identified several factors creating industry expansion: consumer preferences demanding convenience and efficiency, the use of digital technologies, increased environmental consciousness, and an emphasis on customization.

As is true for so many things, one step leads to another. Hart sees a correlation between the scarcity of new vehicles and consumers’ desires for washes. He explains, “I think the average consumer has identified the value in a nice car and is taking more pride in ownership and therefore spending more time and money to care for their vehicle. This has created more demand for carwash memberships, which creates more demand for new, more efficient carwashes.” Burton concurs, adding, “Professional services provide a superior level of cleanliness and save time for customers, contributing to the industry’s growth. Additionally, many carwashes now provide enhanced services such as interior cleaning, vacuuming, waxing, detailing, and mechanical maintenance. This diversification has broadened the customer base and increased revenue streams, fueling the industry’s steady growth.” 

The growth is especially visible with larger groups, rather than individual owners, building locations in new territories. Burton and Hart say the most significant developments on these sites are in tunnels, enabling on-the-go consumers to forgo long lines and expedite their schedules. At the Car Wash Show in Las Vegas in May, Istobal showcased several products, including an extended width option for extra-wide vehicles such as dually trucks, and a new rollover, the M’WASH PRO, which has updated lighting, customization options, and enhanced programming for smoother movements. For tunnels, it offered a sneak peek of its new prototype module. Burton explains, “In development for the past several years, the ISTOBAL T’Brush combines the best features of an in-bay automatic with the throughput of a tunnel. The T’BRUSH offers 2x the wash coverage of traditional express equipment with fewer components. And, unlike most tunnel modules, both the top and side brushes contour the vehicle, a capability common with in-bay automatics that improves wash quality, coverage and reduces the required on-site labor.” 

At Airlift Doors, Inc., Hart says they are working on innovations to meet the high output of the tunnel systems. He says, “We are constantly working to create and improve our products to become faster and more reliable. We want to provide a door and opener package that will open and close between every car regardless of the throughput of the carwash. We also strive to implement safety measures to protect consumers and vehicles from potential damage.”

As wash design is changing, so is the management technology. Business processes are no longer solely run by humans. Digital, automated payment systems, user-friendly online booking platforms, and loyalty programs streamline them. Consumers appreciate speed and ease, as do wash companies. All data types can now be collected and used to boost the wash experience and efficiency. Burton says, “Advanced technological and digital facilities are in demand, which offers greater productivity and profitability, optimizing the wash efficiency and providing a great experience to the end user.” 

At ISTOBAL, Burton and his team are working toward “100 per cent connected wash facilities that allow digital management of the wash process. Connectivity makes it possible to access relevant wash data as well as the status of the washing equipment with remote supervision and management of the machines. This means it is possible to offer real-time information on consumer behavior that allows operators to personalize services to offer a better customer wash experience.” 

Optimizing each wash is critical for many reasons. When consumers are satisfied, they return for more services. But sustainability is another factor companies must consider now that environmental consciousness is rising. As droughts lead to water restrictions, more washes are looking for ways to improve their recycling, saving, and decontaminating processes. Burton says ISTOBAL is positioned to help in these areas. “At ISTOBAL we are pioneers in the development of comprehensive technologies that reduce water and energy consumption, promoting a sustainable vehicle wash industry. We foresee continued growth in the coming years, driven by a strategy based on innovation, data intelligence and internationalization.”

While sustainability is a global issue, day-to-day business is often conducted person-to-person. Developing good relationships – with clients of all kinds – is a trend that will always matter. And like the customers they serve, wash companies are unique and expect a personalized response. Hart recognizes this and highlights the last significant trend – customization. He says, “Our customers have different demands and expectations from our products. We take this seriously and want to offer the most options available in the door and operator industry. Therefore, we make sure to showcase our full line of polycarbonate doors, vinyl roll-up doors, pneumatic openers, and electric openers. The ability to offer multiple options allows us to customize the perfect package for our customers based on their needs.”

Trends may come and go, but over time, industries with staying power adapt and thrive by demonstrating a combination of innovation and responsiveness to the communities they serve. This is an exciting time for the carwash industry. Stay tuned to see where sustained efforts to develop higher levels of efficiency, new digital technologies, improved sustainability plans, and multiplied customization options take it next. 

Gretchen Matthews founded Chesapeake Quill to help businesspeople become better writers. She is a regular presenter at the biannual Women in Carwash conference and the copy editor for its newsletter, L.E.A.R.N. Contact her at gmatthews@chesapeakequill.com.

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