Skip To The Main Content


  • ICA Joins NHTSA in Reminding Motorists to Protect Vehicles from Corrosive Deicing Chemicals

    by Eric Wulf | Jan 06, 2017

    Chicago, IL
    – International Carwash Association is reminding motorists that the use of wintertime deicing chemicals can cause serious damage, particularly to the exposed underbody of vehicles. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommended that owners of most trucks, SUVs and passenger cars wash the underside of their vehicles to remove corrosive salt in order to prevent brake-line failures. (See information links below.)

    “Keeping roads clear of ice and snow is obviously an important part of safe winter driving, but so is protecting your vehicle,” said ICA CEO Eric Wulf. “Brake lines and other mechanical systems can become degraded, or even fail, due to exposure to roadway deicing chemicals. Those same chemicals can also cause rust to eat through the vehicle’s body – making regular car washing a wise investment in safety and the value of your vehicle.”

    Research has determined that nearly every chemical used to de-ice roadways has some corrosive effect, whether those chemicals are chloride-based, acetates or carbohydrates. Brines can be especially dangerous to a vehicle, as they are commonly used to make salts “stickier” to roadways – resulting in even more opportunity for corrosive chemicals to damage cars.

    Roadway chemicals, while a safety necessity, can also cause pollution, particularly in the form of runoff to streams and waterways. Professional car washes must comply with federal and state regulations governing water discharge, meaning water used in the wash processes is cleaned prior to be returned to the environment. Learn more at

    Sources and Related Information:

  • Ford dives into city of the future ... what does that mean?

    by Matt DeWolf | Nov 30, 2016
    Ford Motor Company recently announced plans to develop a “smart city” based on data collected from autonomous vehicles, connected infrastructure and ride/bike sharing programs. Granted, the company doesn’t have a presence in all of those spaces just yet, but it has said it’s ready to put dollars and resources behind the venture. 
    But why? 
    The 113-year-old manufacturer wants to create urban utopias where curbsides don’t get clogged by illegal parking, eco-friendly bicycles help commuters navigate the final mile of their trips to work, and key arteries leading into and out of downtowns aren’t stifled by heavy traffic during rush hour.
    Can you imagine? Well, sure. Perhaps all we can do is imagine it. By the definition of the word, utopia means an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or near perfect qualities. Literally, it means no place.
    But, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to this new venture. The concept is to use its dedicated Ford Smart Mobility subsidiary and City Solutions division to explore ways the auto manufacturer can optimize the city of the future.
    A key tenet of the plan is to work with municipalities and leaders around the world to tailor services it provides to each city’s unique needs. The company has said it will work with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a coalition of U.S. mayors. 
    It could have interesting implications on the car wash industry. Whether through a shift in what is an ideal car wash location, or through a changing customer base to include more fleet vehicles, autonomous vehicles, or … fewer vehicles.
    In the utopian future city, Ford could also envision restricting certain vehicles from certain parts of cities at certain times, or staggering work and shuttle times to reduce congestion and pollution. This could change staffing models for car washes, operating hours, peak times, etc. 
    Perhaps there’s a surge in bike washes coming. Or perhaps not.
  • ICA Announces Initiative to Address New Vehicle Technologies

    by Eric Wulf | Sep 15, 2016

    International Carwash Association (ICA) has announced a new initiative to address emerging vehicle technologies and their growing impact on car wash operators and drivers.

    ICA is partnering with Schwartz Advisors, a California-based automotive consulting firm, to leverage its deep familiarity with the automotive design, manufacturing and aftermarket segments.

    “The automotive industry is quickly becoming as much a technology industry as it is a provider of transportation,” said ICA CEO Eric Wulf. “Yet some of these new technologies are not ready for every situation a customer will experience with their vehicle – including, at times, car washes.”

    According to Wulf, examples include collision avoidance systems that mistake common car wash equipment for road hazards, and computer-controlled transmissions that don’t allow a vehicle to roll on an everyday car wash conveyor.

    “With our new partnership with Schwartz Advisors, we are committed to bridging the gap between drivers, car wash operators and the automotive industry,” he said.

    ICA’s work will include surveying and studying car wash operators’ experiences with new vehicle technologies and creating an information library of manufacturer-recommended vehicle handling procedures for the car wash environment. Schwartz Advisors will also serve as an ongoing resource for car wash operators who have new vehicle technology issues, and will represent the professional car wash industry to the automotive industry.

    “Our initial goal is to help car wash operators navigate this emerging landscape,” said Wulf. “And by cataloging and quantifying the issues being experienced at car washes, we hope to eventually improve automotive design and manufacturing for the benefit of our mutual customer – today’s drivers.”

    For more information, please contact Director of Membership Megan Clark at Progress reports will be regularly featured in CAR WASH Magazine, Car Wash News and at

  • ICA's New Strategic Plan

    by Eric Wulf | Apr 26, 2016

    On this page you will find the results of nearly two years of research, focus groups, interviews, business analysis and workshops: International Carwash Association’s new mission, vision, strategic goals and values & beliefs. Together, these components form ICA’s new strategic plan. We are sharing this information in order to inform the car wash industry about its association’s work and to invite feedback and dialouge within the car wash community. Going forward, progress reports will published in each quarterly edition of CAR WASH Magazine™.

    The release of this strategic plan comes at an interesting time for the industry. Occurring alongside strong overall growth is also transformation. Multi-store operators and new-to-industry groups are aggressively acquiring and developing car wash locations, and new generations of owner-operators are taking leadership roles and setting fresh expectations. In an industry always interested in the latest new products, it’s worth noting that the who in our community is changing as quickly as the what.

    In this context, it has never been more important for International Carwash Association to continue its own evolution. It was just a short time ago that ICA was primarily operating a single event in a single geographic market without a single full-time employee. Since then, the association has launched Car Wash Show Europe®, CAR WASH Magazine™, WaterSavers® and Splash!™, created new partnerships with the Automotive Oil Change Association and Western Carwash Association and established its first independent, full-time headquarters team. Like the industry, we have grown and transformed.

    This new strategic plan reflects the belief that the professional car wash community will demand even more of International Carwash Association in the future – and that there is much work to be done now. Vehicle technologies pose increasing challenges, and the work underway to establish a new alliance with automotive manufacturers is a current priority. Reaching the car wash customer with positive car wash messages is as important as ever, and one that will receive more of our resources. Our work to develop new and stronger relationships with North American and European car wash associations has only just begun. And, while we have yet to complete our second edition of Car Wash Show Europe, we must also look to the horizon for the next opportunity to expand the professional car wash community.

    The future for professional car washing appears exceptionally bright. We are honored to have served this industry for more than 60 years and inspired to support what this community achieves next. 

    Click here to view International Carwash Association's new strategic plan.
  • Car Washes: Safer for vehicles than ever before

    by Eric Wulf | Feb 10, 2016

    Given the size of the investment, it certainly makes sense for a car owner to ask questions about whether or not a car wash is safe for their vehicle. The best answer typically comes from a car wash manager who can effectively explain the wash process and equipment and detergents being used. To assist in those conversations, we're sharing the following information from Tommy Car Wash Systems. Thanks to Tommy for allowing us to share.

    "Swirl Marks and Car Washes? What's Really Going On."

    There’s nothing more American than the beloved personal automobile and the freedom, independence, self-sufficiency, and success they’ve come to represent.  People LOVE their cars and rightly want to see them taken care of, and properly understanding the threats to vehicles (both cosmetic and functional) and how to head them off is key to keeping a car running and looking great for decades to come.
    This brings us to the topic of the day: swirl marks. These are circular microscopic imperfections on the surface of different vehicles, best seen on black or dark blue cars when illuminated by a single light source (like the sun). They are not to be confused with cracking or spider webs, both of which lie beneath the clear coat and are a result of imperfections or micro-fracturing in the paint itself. Most cars develop scuffing to one degree or another over their lifespans and they can be resolved with professional treatments.
    The question, of course, is whether or not swirl marks are caused by automatic car washes like the Totally Tommy tunnel?
    Even the most cursory search online (or conversation over dinner) reveals the incredibly strong feelings many people have about the relationship between these abrasions and automatic car washes (friction cleaning washes in particular). It’s often just assumed as common knowledge. Car wash brushes are said to be too harsh, scraping vehicles and marring the clear coat, or the brush material (and sometimes even the water in the high pressure hoses) is said to become impacted with dirt and grit, which in turn is spread from vehicle to vehicle, resulting in scratches.
    But the truth is more complicated and much more interesting.
    First off, car wash materials and cleaning instruments have changed with time, but what hasn’t changed is the need for car was operators and engineers to balance the cleaning power of the wash against the resilience of the car itself. Back in the early days of car washes and up until recent decades, most of the wash power came from scrubbing action rather than chemical or detergent action or wash pressure. When most of the cleaning had to be done with brushes and friction, the degree of friction was ramped up with brushes that took off more of the dirt but had a greater impact on the surface as a result. Older style brushes were more abrasive and often worked with less lubrication, which in combination with single stage paint jobs, made minor scuffing a regular occurrence.
    But today this damage is virtually unheard of and well-maintained modern car washes have a number of safeguards in place to prevent swirl marks or customer damage. Advancements have been made in in water filtration, detergent application, high pressure washing, and in the friction cleaning material in particular.
    Today’s soft cloths have forgone the nylon brushes that were famous for leaving brush marks in the 1970s and 80s and instead rely on a closed cell foam material that lacks any structure that could conceivably capture dirt or grit, OR a highly engineered cloth made from densely woven cotton or polyethylene microfibers. The foam and microfiber (which feels fuzzy like yarn with the consistency of a heavy cardstock and is often used for underwater curtains or faux-kelp in major aquariums) are both continually primed with body soap and fresh water, removing any debris and providing much-needed lubrication between the brushes and the body of the vehicle.  They’re safe to use and the overwhelming majority of patrons never have any issues—even after repeated washing.

    But what about the occasional patron who does report scuffing and swirl marks?
    There are a number of theories, each of which probably holds truth in certain situations.
    1. Single stage paint: High quality foreign cars in dark blue or black are sometimes still painted with old-fashioned single stage paint, resulting in a more fragile clear coat that is more easily affected by regular washing materials in both hand washes and automatic washes. Antique and high end cars should always be cleaned with great care.
    2. Revealing wear and tear: As a car wash cleans a car it can reveal imperfections and scratches that had previously been obscured by dirt and dust. The cleaner the car, the more easy it is to spot regular lines and nicks that can result from blowing sand, particle debris on highways, and even damage from improper hand washing practices like one-bucket washes, dishwasher soap, and artificial sponge use (which have been shown to be far more damaging to vehicle exteriors than most auto owners realize).
    3. Perception bias: Nearly every car on the road has marks of one kind or another, regardless of how it is cleaned or maintained. Usually you only see them when you are looking for them, and then when you spot a problem it’s all you can see! Because smart consumers look very closely after their car washes they are more likely to spot preexisting damage and blame it on the wash—even if the type or pattern of damage is clearly inconsistent with the action of the car wash’s components.
    4. Wax layering: New cars fresh from the dealer usually have a heavy, brand new coat of professionally applied wax to protect them from the elements, improve their gloss, and disguise those very same cracks and spider-lines we mentioned in the opening paragraph. As these brand new vehicles are driven that wax begins to break down, and when they go through the car wash the first time exposure to detergents and friction cleaning can actually thin and polish the original wax further, bringing out existing imperfections that had not been visible before (and often enraging the new car’s owners). A fresh coat of professionally applied wax easily corrects the issue, which is normally only present on very dark vehicles or vehicles with certain ‘flat’ paint tones.
    If the brushes or chemicals in the wash were to damage a vehicle, the pattern of damage would be expected to follow very specific patterns matching the motion and action of the equipment used, and your average swirl marks don’t fit the bill. Incidents of car wash damage are extremely rare and when they do often they most commonly involve other factors.
  • New Vehicle Technologies - UPDATE

    by Eric Wulf | May 27, 2015

    In January of this year we provided an update on the work of our operator-led working group that is focused on issues relating to new vehicle technologies. There were three primary issues:

    1. Transmissions that do not allow for vehicles to remain in neutral without the engine running.
    2. Vehicle sensors that engage the brakes when objects are near (e.g. "adaptive cruise control").
    3. External door lock keypads that can be inadvertently engaged.

    ICA, with the support and assistance of our working group, approached the North American headquarters offices of most automotive manufacturers to make them aware of these issues and request their assistance. Thus far, one major manufacturer, Ford Motor Company, has provided their response:

    "Lincoln (2013 to present) and not yet production Ford shift-by-Wire applications created a feature called 'Stay in Neutral mode'.  It is a mode, that when activated, allows the customer to leave  the vehicle and/or turn off the vehicle with the vehicle in Neutral.  The vehicle will remain 'awake' and drain the battery during this mode, but it allows a customer to run the vehicle through a car  wash without shifting to Park. Other OEMs do not have this feature, and require the engine to be running to shift the vehicle.  We are in the process of migrating this across Ford brand vehicles."

    Vehicle Sensors
    "Though this may be an issue for other manufacturers, our system will not activate the brakes below 7 mph, much faster than any carwash."

    Door Lock Keypads
    "We’ve recently implemented a design change that will prevent the keypad from locking the car when the vehicle is in any position other than “Park” which should solve this problem on all future  systems."

    For more about Ford's "stay in neutral mode", see page 5 of the following reference guide for the 2014 MKZ (click here). 

    We'd like to thank Ford for their attention to these issues, and for providing customer and car wash environment solutions that we hope other automobile manufacturers will consider. ICA will continue to make car wash operators aware of updates as they are available. In the interim, please visit our Vehicle Incident Reporting page to share your information.

  • New Vehicle Technologies

    by Eric Wulf | Jan 06, 2015

    Over the past few years, we’re aware of an increasing number of car-wash related issues with new vehicle technology. These issue fall into a few major categories:

    1. Transmissions that do not allow for vehicles to remain in neutral without the engine running.
    2. Vehicle sensors that engage the brakes when objects are near (e.g. “adaptive cruise control”).
    3. External door lock keypads that can be inadvertently engaged.

     In a recent article, Autoweek Magazine did a good job of further explaining these problems, as did Fox News Detroit.

    Some car wash customers may not even know about the presence of the above technologies in their vehicles. Acura has taken the approach of developing a “car wash mode” to better accommodate customer visits to car washes. Other manufacturers have created detailed handling instructions that may be unfamiliar to car owners (see: BMW - 2014 X5 sDrive35i Car Wash Recommendations).

    Experiences and suggestions can be discussed in our vehicle incident reporting group on LinkedIn, and reports can be made through ICA’s vehicle incident reporting form. Also, a special working group of car wash operators has begun meeting to study these issues and what actions ICA, car wash operators and car wash manufacturers could take to address these problems. We expect more information to be made available as that work progresses. 

  • Watch out for Matte Finishes

    by Eric Wulf | Nov 14, 2014

    Vehicles with matte finishes have been appearing with some increased frequency at professional car washes. While some consumers do prefer the look of this finish, Consumer Reports recently gave this product it's "diva award" due to its cumbersome care requirements:

    "If a paint color/finish is more expensive to buy, chances are it’s more expensive to maintain and repair... The diva award in this category goes to the matte finish... Matte is also an expensive finish to doctor if it gets dinged. Even a small repair area might require fixing an entire car panel..." (Full article here.)

    Hyundai USA's website contains the following care recommendations for vehicles with matte finishes:

    "Matte finishes are different from other automotive paints. Typical gloss paints use a clear-coat finish that reflects light and gives a shiny appearance. A matte finish uses a different coating that defuses light, providing its unique “flat” finish. To enjoy your vehicle's matte appearance for many years to come, please follow these owner care and maintenance tips.

    • Do not use wax, detail spray... or any products made for normal paint. Use only products specifically developed for matte finish paint.
    • Do not use products that are even mildly abrasive, such as polishes, glazes, or rubbing compounds.
    • Do not use mechanical cleaners or polishes.
    • Do not use terrycloth, cloth, or paper towels. Do not rub the finish vigorously, as this will burnish the paint finish, causing a permanent shiny spot. Shiny spots can never be removed.
    • Do not use commercial car wash facilities or their shine enhancement products. Most car wash brushes, large mechanized ""towels,"" and shine enhancement products can damage matte paint.
    • Remove foreign substances such as insect remains, tar, and road debris using a soft applicator and a mild solvent; saturate and soak the area before cleaning- rub lightly.
    • Hand-wash with a soft wash mitt and mild cleaning product safe for matte paint.
    • Use microfiber cleaning clothes with alcohol-based widow cleaner for basic surface clean-up.

    Several car washes have reported successfully washing vehicles with matte finishes, but based upon the above you may want to remind owners of these vehicles to review their owner's manual prior to making any car washing decisions or, better yet, select a car that is easier and less expensive to maintain!

  • Why Car Wash Show Europe: A letter from ICA's President

    by Eric Wulf | Jul 24, 2014

    From its early days as the Automatic Car Wash Association – International (the forerunner of ICA), to member tours of international car wash markets in the 1980s and 1990s, to the adoption of a globally and industry focused vision statement in 2002, to facilitating member participation in international trade shows and seminars, International Carwash Association has long prescribed to an international mindset for the exchange of knowledge and commerce.

    Exchange of information played a role in the birth of the “express exterior” car wash model in the United States, which was partially developed from ideas discovered in the European market on an ICA-sponsored member trip in the 1990s. Facilitating commerce, such as through international trade shows and seminars, has played a role in helping nearly two-thirds of ICA supplier members sell their products and services outside of the United States. Without a global industry focus, ICA would not have been able to enable or support these opportunities.

    Two of ICA’s primary roles are to provide for the exchange of knowledge and the facilitation of commerce. In that context, expanding into Europe will allow ICA to deliver more value to members and the industry. Through Car Wash Show Europe, operators as well as suppliers will be exposed to new ideas, information and networking opportunities. Both groups will also benefit from a new marketing channel for introducing products and services.

    Car Wash Show Europe will provide the successful platform car wash operators and suppliers have enjoyed in North America, with networking, education and exhibits – presented by a not-for-profit association focused exclusively on advancing the professional car wash industry.

    I invite you to be a part of this exciting new event, and welcome your input or suggestions.


    Gary Dennis, President
    International Carwash Association

  • U.S. Car Wash Industry Shows Growth in 2012

    by Eric Wulf | Feb 19, 2013

    Data supplied by retail car wash locations through the International Carwash Association’s Wash Count™ program showed that the U.S. car wash industry continues to recover with the overall economy, posting gains in both average car washes per location (wash counts) and average revenue per car wash (ticket average). In 2012, wash counts grew by 2.1 percent, while ticket average grew by 2.6 percent.

    More than 500 locations are enrolled in Wash Count, which enables the data to be interpreted at the 95 percent confidence level (+/- 5 percent). The Association estimates the total number of car wash locations in the United States at approximately 80,500.

    Wash Count is available at no additional cost to Association members. Participants receive valuable quarterly benchmarking data that is unavailable to non-participants, including the ability to compare results to a broad cross-section of the industry by geography and car wash model type.

    “Wash Count has become an incredibly valuable tool for operators to evaluate their performance against the industry and view trends by car wash type in different regions of the country,” said International Carwash Association CEO Eric Wulf. “The results from 2012 confirm that the car wash business is again growing, and fuels additional optimism for 2013.”.

    Operators interested in joining the Wash Count program can learn more by visiting and clicking on the Wash Count icon. Potential investors to the car wash industry can request additional information about the car wash business by visiting the same website and clicking “Learn more about the car wash industry” or by participating in the New Investor Seminar on April 21 at The Car Wash Show in Las Vegas.

    A more thorough analysis of 2012 results will be featured in the spring edition of CAR WASH Magazine, which is mailed to ICA members and available at The Car Wash Show™ 2013.

  • U.S. car washes get increased media attention

    by Matt DeWolf | Sep 21, 2012

    Over the past few weeks, we have been monitoring an increase in media attention toward worker conditions and hour and wage compliance in the U.S. car wash industry. Initiatives similar to the one led by the AFL-CIO in California have been recently replicated in New York City and Chicago.

    The purpose for this message is to share with you how the International Carwash Association has responded to these efforts and how car wash owners can best protect themselves and their businesses.

    First, ICA’s position is that every business should be compliant with labor and safety rules. We have regularly provided education and resources to the industry on this topic.

    Unfortunately, in nearly every instance, the violations cited in the media or by worker rights organizations have occurred at businesses that are not “professional” by most definitions and not members of our or other car wash associations. Regardless, these incidents can unfairly tarnish the entire industry.

    We believe that the appropriate response to these situations is through education and enforcement, and not the implementation of new rules or requirements that place undue burdens on those businesses that are in compliance. In fact, most professional car washes go well beyond the minimum legal requirements and provide an enriching, meaningful and respectful work environment for thousands of employees.

    Our focus is on protecting these businesses – including your business – from being “lumped in” with those who damage our reputation as valuable contributors to our communities.

    When responding to media or consumer inquiries, we emphasize the above points. To help protect your reputation, we’d like to also offer the following suggestions:

    1. Review current labor and workplace safety regulations to ensure compliance and consider seeking the support of expert consultants for assistance.
    2. Be prepared to explain to media or customers how your company treats its workers, including the areas of education, training and compensation and benefits.
    3. Educate your employees about applicable laws and standards and how your company is committed not only to compliance but also the principles of respect, dignity and fair treatment.

    The Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Labor, in addition to state and local governments, have information available that can help you understand minimum requirements and best practices.

    For additional assistance, please feel free to contact our office at +1 888.422-8422 or

  • Drought and Professional Car Washes

    by Eric Wulf | Sep 11, 2012

    Drought has been an issue across much of North America this year. In some areas, government has restricted water usage by homes and businesses. In the most severe of instances, we are aware of – and have been working with – car washes that have been closed.

    When working with water authorities, the International Carwash Association’s position is:

    Professional car washes are a part of the water quality and conservation solution.

    • The professional car wash industry uses less than one-tenth of one percent of the daily water usage in North America (based on U.S. Geological Survey and ICA data). In any area, car washes use much less total water than restaurants, hotels and many other industries.
    • Professional car washes prevent pollution from entering rivers, lakes and streams.

    Closing businesses is not a sustainable practice.

    • Closing car washes puts people out of work.
    • Closing car washes reduces payments into utility systems.

    What can you do next?
    In times of drought, every person and business should be expected to make an equitable contribution. The best drought response plans take this principle into account and therefore first target home and parking lot car washing for restriction. If further restrictions become necessary, the next steps should take into account the water conservation practices or footprint of each car wash. Finally, if the situation demands it, car washes should only have hours of operation restricted – and not closed down entirely.

    The middle of a drought is the most difficult time to make progress on improving your area’s drought response policies, but it’s not too late to get ready for the next drought. The following are a list of things you can do today:

    Educate your community.

    • If you are recycling water or using grey or reject water, be sure you are telling your customers via signage, promotions and in your greetings.
    • If you qualify, join the WaterSavers program to align your brand with the industry’s water conservation program. Receive exclusive use of the WaterSavers marks and logo, inclusion on the list of locations at
      and the use of the new WaterSavers tab for your company’s Facebook page.

    Calculate the car wash footprint.
    An important part of the communication to water authorities in times of drought is the relative/contextual use of water by professional car washes. So, know the count of car washes in your area and compare those to hotels, restaurants or other businesses. In nearly every instance, car washes as a category will use much less water.

    Know your water authorities – and their thinking

    You should know who makes the decisions for water restrictions in your area, and what they already know about car washing. You can position yourself as an information resource, using ICA supplied data and your local research, to help regulators form an informed opinion.

    Build your emergency plan

    Be pro-active in planning for what you’ll do if drought approaches.

    An example:
    Step One: If I can see drought coming, I’ll begin modifying my promotions, ads and customer interactions to make sure that we’re educating customers about our low water

    Step Two: If restrictions are being talked about:
    I’ll start modifying my wash packages or configurations so that I’m taking steps to reduce fresh water – and I’ll let my customers and regulators know about this.

    Step Three: If I think restrictions could impact me, I’ll have contingency plans in place, such as:

    1. Can I truck in water?
    2. Is now the time to do preventative maintenance or site refurbishment?
    3. Can I "ramp up" my other businesses, such as detailing, oil chage or windshield repair?

    For more information, visit or

  • ICA creates three new events

    by Matt DeWolf | Jul 03, 2012

    Over the last few weeks, we’ve shared news with you about exciting enhancements to the WaterSavers® program and the launch of our new benchmarking program, Wash Count™. Today, we’re announcing three new events planned for 2012 that are available exclusively to International Carwash Association® (ICA) members:

    • The Supplier CEO Summit™ will be held August 20–21 in Chicago. The program is available to C-level leaders of ICA member vendor companies. Last year’s inaugural event was exceptionally well-received by the more than two dozen attendees. The agenda features speakers on future trends and leadership success, as well as opportunities for networking.
    • The Car Wash Retailing Summit™ will be held September 27–28 in Chicago. The program is available to ICA members who are car wash business leaders in the owner-operator and convenience/petroleum retailing segments. The agenda includes expert economic analysis, the latest in car wash consumer research and opportunities to network with peers.
    • The Exhibitor Forum™ will be held November 14 in Chicago. The program is open to ICA members exhibiting at The Car Wash Show™ 2013, the world’s largest car wash convention and trade show. The program allows exhibitors to hear from experts in trade show marketing and booth design, learn about marketing plans for next year’s show and provide feedback on show features.

    We know that our members are extremely interested in learning and networking—the education sessions at The Car Wash Show™ 2012 were standing room only and our 2011 Supplier CEO Summit was extremely popular. This new and expanded menu of events is another way we can satisfy your business needs, bringing new thinking and information to the leaders of the professional car wash industry. Seating is limited for each of these events. To register, or for additional information, contact Megan Clark at

  • 7 out of 10 consumers use professional car washes

    by Matt DeWolf | Jun 22, 2012

    In case you missed it, here’s our recent press release on the latest in car wash consumer research…


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                

    Contact: Amy Goetz

    +1 312.673.5824


    CHICAGO (June 18, 2012)—In a recent study commissioned by the International Carwash Association®, 69 percent of respondents reported using professional car washes most often. This statistic is up from 52 percent in 1996.

    “We find it very exciting that each time we survey, the needle keeps moving up for professional car washing,” commented the CEO of the International Carwash Association, Eric Wulf. “In roughly 15 years, we’ve gone from 1 in 2 to 7 in 10 people choosing a professional car wash most often. This is a great testament to consumers’ understanding that choosing a professional wash is a significant way to reduce their ecological footprint.”

    The study’s findings also show significant differences between low- and high-frequency car washers, specifically in the area of environmental issues. High-frequency car washers indicated that the International Carwash Association WaterSavers® program increased their likelihood to wash their vehicle more frequently at a professional car wash. Numbers showed that that these same respondents would be more willing to drive out of their way or pay more to wash their vehicle at a WaterSavers car wash.

    Details about the study’s findings are available in the summer issue of CAR WASH Magazine, due out mid-June. The findings will also be made available to car wash business leaders for discussion at The Car Wash Retailing Summit™ in Chicago, September 27-28, 2012.

    About the International Carwash Association

    The International Carwash Association® is the non-profit trade group representing the retail and supply segments of the professional car wash and vehicle care industry across North America and around the globe. With nearly 2,000 member companies representing more than 15,000 car wash locations in approximately 25 countries, the Association is the business partner and voice of the professional car wash industry. The Association produces The Car Wash Show™, the world’s largest car wash convention and trade show; administers WaterSavers®, the industry’s leading environmental recognition program; publishes CAR WASH Magazine, the premier source of information for the car wash business leader; and provides Wash Count, a tool for car wash operators to benchmark and compare their business results. To learn more, visit

  • New and improved: Wash With WaterSavers

    by Matt DeWolf | Jun 19, 2012

    In my last post, I wrote to you about Wash Count™, our new benchmarking program that is free for International Carwash Association® members. (You can register and learn more at Today, I’m writing to share exciting news about our award-winning WaterSavers® program.

    This week we launched the revamped Wash With WaterSavers consumer website. In addition to a fresh look, the site includes an enhanced car wash search function and a customized landing page for every participating location. With more than 1,000 locations enrolled in the program, this site has become the place for consumers to find environmentally responsible car washes.

    Also, later this summer WaterSavers will be moving further into the world of Facebook. Every participating location will benefit from customized Facebook ads that are targeted to consumers in its geographic area. Also, every participating company will be receiving access to our new Facebook app, a tab from your company’s Facebook Page that tells the WaterSavers story of water conservation and pollution prevention.

    For only $129 per year, operators can align their businesses with a recognized, credible brand. WaterSavers is a convenient way to promote and build business. Be sure to see the article in the upcoming issue of CAR WASH Magazine™about our newest consumer research, which shows that the WaterSaversmessage is particularly resonant with the most loyal car wash customers.

    Next week, I’ll be writing to you about three new networking and educational opportunities we’re making available to operators and vendors. Until then, please feel free to reach out with your comments or questions. Thanks again for your support.

  • ICA launches Wash Count

    by Matt DeWolf | Jun 11, 2012

    Dear Member,

    Building on the success of The Car Wash Show™ 2012, I’d like to share with you several exciting updates from the International Carwash Association®. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sending you information about three new educational and networking events planned for this fall, as well as enhancements to our WaterSavers® program. Today, I want to share with you our newest program: Wash Count™.
    Wash Count is a new business intelligence tool available free of charge to ICA members. Participants share their wash revenues and car counts and, in return, will be able to see how their results compare, on a quarterly basis, to other car washes by geographic area and car wash type. The data is always protected, and only aggregated information will ever be reported outward. With Wash Count, car wash operators will be able to see market trends and how their businesses are performing relative to the industry. Enrollment is now available If you have any questions about Wash Count, please contact Megan Clark, Director of Operations, at
    Speaking of business intelligence, keep an eye on your mailboxes this month for the latest issue of CAR WASH Magazine. The summer edition contains our exclusive car wash equipment sales report and the results of our newest consumer research. We’re also taking a look at the world of design, from automobiles to retail stores.
    I want to thank our members for the wonderful feedback we’ve received about the magazine. We embarked upon this journey last fall with the goal of providing car wash business leaders with new ideas, information and writing that isn’t available elsewhere. Based on what you’ve told us, we’re achieving that goal. Please keep the comments coming.
    Thank you for your membership and, as always, feel free to contact me with your questions or comments.
    Eric Wulf
  • The meaning of membership

    by Matt DeWolf | Nov 17, 2011

    Membership, membership, membership… What does it all mean?

    This is a fairly common question for trade associations. We’re typically less oriented toward particular product sales than other businesses, and this can make answering the question “why are or aren’t people joining?” more challenging. (Not that this is an easy questions for any business though.)

    At ICA, we’ve admittedly been less worried about the theoretical and more focused on building a better product and doing a better job of telling our story. With back-to-back years of double digit membership increases (10% in 2010 and 17% in 2011) and continuing expansion of key programs (WaterSavers is up 11% thus far in 2011) the indicators are that we’re headed in the right direction.

    Our goal is to be our members’ most valuable business partner. We deliver on this in three primary ways: 1) through the products and education at the world’s largest car wash convention and trade show (members get two complimentary passes to The Car Wash Show and preferred exhibition rates), 2) through the information and insights delivered through CAR WASH Magazine (the print edition and preferred advertising rates are only for members) and 3) through consumer and regulator outreach via our WaterSavers program.

    Thanks to our members’ support and feedback, we believe we’re doing better than ever before in delivering on our goal – but we’re certainly not stopping. As one example: our Wash Count program, which has thus far attracted more than 200 locations and may launch as early as January, could provide new and valuable information for your business in 2012.

  • Broader reach, smaller world

    by Matt DeWolf | Oct 18, 2011

    This past week we were in Paris for the Equip Auto show, one of Europe’s largest automotive shows, which also includes a car wash component. Our experiences there, including meeting with new members and leading suppliers and operators, was another reminder of the growing inter-connectedness of the world – and that it’s no different for our industry.

    While International Carwash Association’s origins are in North America, our membership is increasingly diverse. Since the end of 2009, our membership has increased 28% – and a big part of that growth has come from the member companies we now have in more than 25 countries. (Attendees to The Car Wash Show in 2011 came from more than 30 countries.) Anecdotally, but also supported by our Equipment Sales Report, we know that our North American members are doing an increasing amount of business outside of the U.S. and Canada.

    So what does this mean for ICA? Well, we’re beginning to see potential opportunities to provide value. One category could be shared issues that cut across borders: things like environmental issues/advocacy and education. For some of these, existing programs may become increasingly important. (For example, we now have WaterSavers participants in the Middle East.). Another example may be CAR WASH Magazine. We could offer our publication to readers in multiple languages, or increasingly source content with an international focus.

    Most important to this evaluation will be learning what the customer (member) wants, and then evaluating if those wants align with our capabilities and priorities. But, two things stand out: 1) International Carwash Association is the world’s largest organization for car wash professionals, and 2) more than 90% of the world – including consumers and car wash operators and suppliers – doesn’t live in North America. If we don’t think globally, we are certainly missing opportunities for our members to learn, grow and succeed.

    Thanks to our members outside North America for the support and input they’ve already provided; it is welcomed and valued!


  • CEO Supplier Summit launched

    by Matt DeWolf | Sep 14, 2011

    Last week we hosted a new program for vendor members, the Supplier CEO Summit. 30 owners and c-level executives met in Chicago for networking and presentations on business strategy and economics. Feedback on the event was great, and we’re already looking forward to the next edition.

    One of the speakers, Chuck Bamford of Queens University and University of Notre Dame, focused on the “resource based analysis” approach to business planning. There was a full plate of food for thought from this presentation: separating your organization’s activities and offerings into the “orthodox” (things customers expect, but are not necessarily competitive advantages) and the “unorthodox” (things where you uniquely excel – and are rare, durable, non-substitutable and valuable).

    As an example, for a retail car wash, an orthodox component of the business could be equipment maintenance. Every customer expects the equipment to be in good repair – but that is likely not why anyone comes to the wash.

    Unorthodox? That’s tough. Similar price points can always be found elsewhere (so that’s not “rare”), and an on-line tire application can be duplicated relatively easily by competitors (so not “durable”).

    I couldn’t help but think about some of the WaterSavers washes we visited in Atlanta. One in particular was operating at a near closed-loop, using less than 9 gallons of fresh water per car as well as separating and routing to sanitary sewer. Their investments do perhaps give them some “rare” and “durable” advantages, and something not easily “substituted”.

    If you’re interested in this approach, there is quite a bit online – just search on “resource based analysis”.

  • New magazine, new opportunity

    by Matt DeWolf | Sep 12, 2011

    The first edition of CAR WASH Magazine, ICA’s new quarterly magazine for members, is at the printer. Every member company will be receiving their copy in the mail this month, with the digital edition scheduled to be released sometime in October. No small amount of planning and work has gone into this new endeavor, and we are excited for your feedback and suggestions. We are also eager to use the magazine as a new vehicle to share relevant ideas and insights with the leaders of the professional car wash industry.

    On that note, I hope you will give some consideration to something mentioned in the magazine, a new program we’ve successfully experimented with and hope to introduce broadly in early 2012 – we’re calling it “ICA Wash Count.”

    The concept is simple, and something every car wash leader has thought about: how do my results compare to others? It’s also related to a question I get every week: how is the car wash industry doing? Well, truth be told – we unfortunately don’t know!

    Wash Count is an attempt to provide participants, and the industry, with better information about how the industry is performing, specifically in regards to wash counts and revenues. We successfully piloted the program in early 2011 with a few dozen locations and we are now hoping to gain additional participants in order to provide richer and more meaningful data.

    Those who chose to participate will share their wash counts and total wash revenues by location and car wash model/type each month. (For the first year, participants will also share the same information for the previous year period in order to obtain comparative data.) Participants will see information in every category on an average and anonymous basis. So, if you have three exterior washes, you’ll see data for how exterior washes are doing in terms of car washed and average revenues – as well as for full-service washes and rollovers. We’ll also use some of the information, though not as detailed, to provide high-level trend information to the broader industry.

    Data integrity and confidentiality are obviously a paramount concern. We’ve identified a third-party firm that will collect and process the data, ensuring that no other participants (or even ICA) will see any individual company’s information. This is similar to how other industries have run their programs, such as from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

    This information should be helpful to you in your business planning in several ways. Most obvious is knowing how you compare to peer operations. Another is in terms of considering new investments or model/site conversions. It could also be of benefit to you for business transition, when you are looking to value and sell your business.

    While such a program has not existed for the U.S. market, there are examples in the Canadian car wash industry and allied industries (e.g. NACS, PEI, etc.). This also follows ICA’s successful administration of a car wash equipment sales report for the North American market over the past two years. Through that program, we’ve shown that we can protect data submissions and provide credible industry information for the benefit of participants and the industry. I hope you’ll join us in doing the same for car wash operators.

    If you’d like to learn more, or enroll today, please contact Megan Clark at



Subscribe to Car Wash NewsLearn about the car wash industry

Follow Us