“The expectations of car wash users are rising”
Since mid-August, Stefan Sulzmaier has been managing director of the WashTec subsidiary AUWA. Our colleagues from Carwashpro.de got to ask him some questions about the future plans of the internatinal supplier of environmentally friendly washing and care chemicals.
The experienced chemicals manager Stefan Sulzmaier will be responsible for market development, product management and sales at AUWA. His activities will focus on strengthening the development of car wash chemicals. By doing this, WashTec wants to increase its focus on the North American market.
Stefan Sulzmaier comes from Lower Bavaria. From 2019 to 2023 he was a member of the management team at Menzerna, a market leader when it comes to paint care products and polishing agents.
Two major topics in the car wash industry seem to be sustainability and quality through washing chemicals. How can these two topics be combined?
“It is indeed gratifying to see that sustainability and quality are being recognized as key issues for the future. We are firmly convinced that these two aspects are interdependent and closely linked. Committed environmental protection and outstanding washing performance are not mutually exclusive. In this context, AUWA has successfully established the Green Car Care product range on the market after years of intensive development work. This is characterized by uncompromising washing quality with maximum environmental compatibility.
By continuously developing and improving our formulas with regard to sustainability and washing quality, we are also optimizing our chemistry along the entire value chain. This includes the selection of sustainable raw materials, the design of environmentally friendly transport packaging and compatibility in water treatment plants and waste water. In this way, we offer our partners support in improving their own sustainability figures.”
How do you think the development of washing chemicals will evolve in the near future?
“The expectations of car wash users are rising. At the same time consumers’ budgets have become tighter due to the rising cost of living. In many countries, this has led to an increase in the use of low-cost self-service car washes.
For users of conventional portal systems, the choice is increasingly tending towards simpler washing programs and a lower number of washes.
At the same time, the expectation remains that the wash quality is high and that the vehicle is spotlessly clean at the end of the wash. In this context, AUWA has further developed the washing chemistry in order to achieve first-class results even in the less expensive washing programs.
“The situation in the USA is diametrically different. Here we are seeing a significant increase in investment in the car wash sector, and customers are using car washes to an unprecedented extent. The market in the USA is traditionally demanding and characterized by intense competitive pressure. In this respect, it is and remains a very interesting market for us with great growth potential.”
How do car wash customers make their choice when it comes to car wash services?
“In countries such as France and Italy, the use of low-cost self-service car washes has increased. In France in particular, this trend has been reinforced by the temporary closure of car washes by the authorities. These measures were a reaction to increased periods of drought in the current year and the resulting pressure to save water.
In Germany, the traditional gantry system remains the preferred choice for car washes. Nevertheless, we are observing a downward trend in the number of car washes. In the premium segment however, we are seeing increasing demand for high-quality washes in tunnel car washes.
In the USA, wash figures are rising significantly. Surprisingly, this is also due to increased cost awareness. We see a trend among US consumers where they seem to be drifting away from costly and labor-intensive car care in detailing towards more cost-effective automatic car washes. The market is currently seeing an increase in so-called express car wash facilities, a trend that is often compared locally to the rapid growth of coffee house giant Starbucks. This is due to the impressive speed at which new car washes are being built.”
Changing chemicals often has a huge impact in the car wash. What advice can you give car wash operators on this subject?
“There are different requirements for car wash operators. For those who pay particular attention to the purchase price, comparable products are often replaced quickly.
This is more difficult with performance products for detailing purposes. In this context, I recommend testing new products thoroughly and communicating more with users during this test phase. Regular customers are a particularly valuable source of advice here. Social media is also becoming increasingly important as a source of feedback. AUWA products have thus established themselves as the preferred choice for numerous operators thanks to recommendations from users on platforms such as Instagram. In order to use ideally coordinated products, it is advantageous to use all products from one manufacturer.”
What innovations can AUWA customers look forward to in the near future?
“The AUWA team is currently working intensively on the further development of the already extremely successful TecsLine product line. As the market leader in Germany and Europe, we are aiming to further expand our pioneering role in the areas of sustainability and quality internationally.
We are focusing in particular on new products for use in touchless systems. This is happening against the backdrop of the growing trend of manufacturers such as Tesla, who are increasingly ruling out conventional car washes with washing brushes. Our aim is to offer innovative solutions that meet the needs of these developments.”