The Lithuanian adventure of Ace Car Wash Systems
Dutch company Ace Car Wash Systems is currently putting the finishing touches on two big installations in Lithuania. In the capital Vilnius, an express tunnel for Ainava Auto Spa is near completion. In nearby Kaunas, Ace is building an interior lane and polishing machine for Green Car Wash. To find out more, we rang the Ace headquarters near Amsterdam.
Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states, tucked in between Poland, Latvia and Belarus. It’s a small state, with only 3.5 million inhabitants. How did Ace Car Wash Systems end up there? “In the past, we actually never took jobs abroad”, Ruby Kamerbeek, sales manager of Ace Car Wash Systems reveals.”Ten years ago we built two car washes in Curaçao, at BOB Autowas. Five years ago, an assignment in Panama followed. That worked out quite well, after which we decided to no longer decline requests from abroad. By now we know the drill when it comes to exporting and importing equipment. That was actually the biggest bump.”
“Soon the owner will be able to properly see how the Holz does compared to the old car wash”.
After having built a second car wash in Panama, Ace Car Wash Systems felt confident to take up the job in Lithuania. Two jobs actually. One in the capital Vilnius and one in Kaunas; with 300,000 people the second largest city.
One of the challenges in Vilnius is the fact, Ace Car Wash Systems is building their new Holz tunnel while the existing car wash remains in use. Though actually, that’s less crazy than it sounds, assures Kamerbeek. “Some car wash owners take future growth into account during new construction. They then already have the preliminary work done for a second tunnel, should it come to that.”
Kamerbeek is looking forward to the near future, when their machines are up and running. “Soon the owner will be able to properly see how the Holz does compared to the old car wash. Our machine has a capacity of 170 cars per hour.”
Interview continues under photos
Is the Kaunas job for the same owner as the one in Vilnius?
“No, that’s a different owner. Those two jobs actually happen to run fairly parallel. Vilnius is about a 1-hour drive from Kaunas. The owner in Vilnius already runs three car washes in the country, choosing different brands for his machines each time. One time for WashTec, the next for Christ. This time he chose Ace after seeing our machines at a trade show. At the time we initially declined because we always said no to requests from abroad. But after the good experience in Panama, we are not so hesitant anymore.”
How does something like this work logistically?
It makes a huge difference that Lithuania is part of Europe. This means everything can go straight through, unlike a country like Panama. There you have to fill out clearance forms even for the small parts.
We sent two containers of our own material to Lithuania. Five more trucks followed. Because we do the construction ourselves, our people are there too. They fly back and forth. They are often there for 11 days, after which they have a long weekend at home.
Interview continues under photos
How long does a job like this take?
“Normally, building an express tunnel takes about two months. But at the Kaunas facility, it also includes an interior track. Its installation takes about 10 days extra. In addition, we built a Holz polishing machine on top of that. Often we build car washes with an Interior track next to it. Then the entire interior of a car is taken care of. Vacuuming, cleaning windows and dashboard, that kind of work.
Once that’s done, customers can get back in the car and then go through a polisher. In the process, the vehicle is covered with a wax after which dry polishing brushes follow. This is an interesting product for the owner, because it means additional income. For us, it’s the first time we’ve installed a Holz polish portal for a customer.”
What makes Lithuania different from working in the Netherlands?
“Our mechanics were especially surprised at how modern the country is. You think you’re going to the former Eastern Bloc, but actually both Vilnius and Kaunas are modern European cities. With nice shopping streets and good restaurants. We don’t really notice much of the cultural differences. Because we have our own team there, we work in a bit of a cocoon.”
What is the car wash business actually like in Lithuania? After all, it is not a very large country.
“Still, they are quite used to an express tunnel car wash. You can even find copies of the Tommy’s Express tunnel down there.
“In Kaunas, the owner opted for multiple arches, each with its own product. We usually put several products in an arc, but in Lithuania they really want to see a clear distinction. Each product has to be sold separately. Other car washes in the area use the same method.
“Normally we build the car wash according to a fixed arrangement. But if the customer gives it a different interpretation, that’s of course fine too. It’s one of our strong points, to be so flexible. Even though it’s not necessarily simpler. We can also make very short tunnels, if requested. 30 meters long at most.”
When will the two projects be ready?
“By the end of this week, the project in Vilnius should be pretty much finished. At the Green Car Wash in Kaunas, we will be ready in a week or two.”
All photos by Ace Car Wash Systems
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