International Carwash Association (ICA) is the nonprofit organization representing the car wash industry in the United States and around the globe. Its members own, operate or support nearly every car wash business in dozens of countries. ICA offers the world’s largest car wash events and exhibitions, the leading online manager training program (LEAD™), news and inspiration through CAR WASH Magazine™ and a variety of industry research products (Pulse™).
Individual memberships are available at www.carwash.org/join-ica.
2024 Board of Directors
Matt leads ICA's storytelling efforts. Whether it's in the quarterly magazine, a podcast or video update, or playing Plinko! at The Car Wash Show, he's always up for sharing the successes of the people of the professional car wash industry.
The Origins of Car Washing & History of ICA
While it isn't known when the world's first car wash opened, the concept was certainly in use in the earliest days of the 20th Century. A patent for a "Vehicle-Washer" was filed in 1900 by Skerritt V. Hanley of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and the Automobile Laundry Co. (a common term for early car washes) opened in San Francisco, California in 1907. These labor-intensive and mostly manually operated business grew with the automobile industry, and by the 1920s "automobile laundries" and "wash bowls" could be found in cities in the U.S. and Australia.
Most agree that the world's first automatic (fully mechanized) car wash was Paul's Automatic Auto Wash, which opened in Detroit, Michigan USA in 1946, owned by Paul Maranian. The location used the new system designed and constructed by Leo Rousseau, which he marketed under the name "Minit Man." The equipment included a chain conveyor, side brushes, a top brush, vacuums and blowers. The concept was immediately successful, attracting coverage in a September 22, 1947 edition of LIFE Magazine and inciting an explosion in car wash growth.
By the 1950s, as more car wash businesses were opened, operators began to identify a need to network and learn. A new publication, Auto Laundry News, was founded by Robin King, an early car wash pioneer from California. In 1955, he organized for a small group of operators to meet at the Hotel del Prado in Mexico City to organize the "American Auto Laundry Association." (A group using this same name can be found as early as 1933, but little more is known.) David Lippitt, another operator from California, was elected the first president of the group. The first official convention was held at the Jung Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana USA in 1956. In 1959, William H. Coy was appointed the organization's first Executive Secretary, and the first headquarters was established in Detroit. Robin King assumed the role of Executive Secretary in 1961, moving the headquarters to his home in Mexico City.
By the 1960s, automatic car wash machinery was being widely produced in the United States and Europe to serve the growing car wash industry. Accordingly, and due to the growing prevalence of automation, in 1962 the association was renamed "Automatic Car Wash Association, International." In 1967, the organization appointed R.R. "Gus" Trantham to serve as Executive Secretary, a position he held for more than 25 years. In 1974, the name was changed to International Carwash Association. In 1982, the name was changed to "International Carwash Association / National Carwash Council" to reflect a merger between what were the conveyor/automatic and coin-operated segments of the car wash community. In 1986, the name was simplified once again to International Carwash Association.
Today, ICA is the world's leading community for car wash professionals, with members in all 50 U.S. states and more than two dozen countries. The Car Wash Show has expanded with satellite events in Australia, China and Europe, while also solidifying its position as the car wash industry's most important gathering and one of North America's largest trade shows. The nonprofit organization remains governed by the car wash industry, with 9 retail directors and 7 supplier directors comprising its Board of Directors. ICA is served by a professional staff based in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois USA.