Robert Andre of Sonny’s: ‘We are on the eve of big changes’
“We are on the eve of major changes in the car wash industry”, Sonny’s Robert Andre warned recently during the Car Wash Show Europe. “The days that every car wash automatically became an overnight success lie behind us. Those who know his customer best, will be the most successful.”
Although there are still plenty of opportunities for the creation of new car washes in both the United States and Europe, as well as growth opportunities for existing car wash locations, the sky is no longer the limit, Robert Andre thinks. “We get a lot of questions about starting a car wash,” he said during a lively session at the Car Wash Show Europe. “It can be done, but many car washes go under due to unrealistic expectations.”
Location location location
“Other reasons why they fail is because they don’t have a concept and are in a bad location with too little traffic. If you want to be successful with your new car wash, you have to be in a place where thousands of cars pass by every day. Preferably a unique location. Yes, they are expensive, but it pays off. You can improve your carwash, but your location will always remain the same. So invest in that. Also, your establishment mus have its own distinctive identity. One that visitors can recognize from afar. Of course, in addition, the best equipment and chemistry for the best washing results is also indispensable.”
Andre says the carwash industry in the US is still “booming,” even though it has peaked for now. “This year alone, a thousand new car washes have been added across the country. From very small to very large.” According to Andre, there is room in the American market for about 9000 to 12.000 car washes. “This indicates that the industry is thriving. Consequently, many people think it is very easy to successfully set up a carwash formula.
Running a carwash requires a lot of expertise and perseverance. You also need a lot of technical knowledge, because no matter how good and new your equipment is, things will break down and then you have to be able to step in quickly yourself.
There are also more and more other technical developments such as the use of entrance gates with barriers where people can choose their own washing program and pay upfront. This equipment requires a lot of technical know how and knowledge of your own customer flow,” Andre said.
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According to Andre, there are still opportunities in the market in the coming years, especially for smaller car wash establishments. “Establishments with a wash hall with a size of fifteen meters are going to become very important. Now and in the coming years more and more people want to be able to wash their car quickly for a competitive price. We therefore expect the wash frequency to go up. This development has been given additional impetus by the Covid outbreak. During the pandemic, Express car washes exploded. The wash doesn’t always have to be bulky and elaborate. Just in and out in a few minutes, more and more people will want to start using that.”
Whether a car wash is large or small, Andre says the wash results must be top-notch. “Not occasionally, but every day. No matter how busy or quiet it is: consistency is key! Today it seems like car washes are all about the peripherals: fancy lighting and a new color every sector.
Experience is good, but don’t be distracted. It’s about the ultimate wash result. With increasingly strict regulations on water use and consumers expecting top-quality end results while washing with less and less water, that’s where a much bigger challenge lies. Show consumers what you are doing in that area and they will appreciate your efforts.”
“We strive to gain our customers’ trust by delivering a shiny, clean vehicle every time, not to mention saving our customers time and money. We will also create a fun, safe work environment for our team members who view Sonny’s not just as a job, but as an opportunity to grow and serve in our local community.
Our mission is to embed ourselves in and serve the local community by supporting diverse organizations in achieving their goals. We are proud to do our part to help care for the environment we call home,” Andre concludes.