BY JAROSLAW ADAMOWSKI
Polish car wash industry players are investing in their capacities to adapt to customers’ changing demands, and eyeing expansion to neighboring countries.
The latest available figures from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association indicate that Poland has one of the largest passenger car fleets among the European Union’s 27 member states, at about 24.4 million, making it the bloc’s fifth-largest fleet, preceded by Spain, France, Italy and Germany, respectively.
These figures present potential business opportunities, especially in the car wash industry, where companies are stepping up with innovative, customized solutions geared toward car owners and fleets.
Warsaw-based MultiWash, which already oversees a network of about 670 manual car washes in 300 cities in Poland, has come up with a creative subscription plan to expand even further. The start-up does not own this network of car washes, but offers an app that enables its corporate customers subscription plans for full car cleaning services that can be redeemed at its countrywide network of partner outlets.
MultiWash, which was founded in 2016 by a group of entrepreneurs active in the Polish automotive industry, had 155 car washes in its partner program just a year after opening. In 2019, it launched its subscription model.
Tom Czerniejewski, CEO of MultiWash, said the company is driven by its ambition to become the Booking.com or JustEat.com for car wash services in Poland, but, in the long-term, also in a number of foreign markets across Europe.
Lately, they have focused on environmentally friendly, hand service car wash solutions due to demand and based on sustainability research by the Hydrology and Construction
Department of the Warsaw University of Technology. “We are observing a surge in interest in detailing services. This is a market that is experiencing rapid growth in Poland,” he said. “Hand wash services are the most expensive format of car wash services, but also a format that provides customers with the highest quality in return for their money.”
Poland’s car wash industry is worth about PLN 2 billion (US$520 million) per year, with the market’s value divided almost evenly between three segments: self-service, automatic and hand car wash. The latter type of service takes up the smallest part of the market, but it is the only one to offer full-service cleaning with car interior included, according to Czerniejewski.
INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION PLANS
Currently, MultiWash offers its services solely to large corporate customers. These include companies such as Microsoft, PepsiCo, Roche, DPD, Rossmann and Pfizer, among others, whose local subsidiaries operate large car fleets in Poland. However, in the long-term, the company wants to expand its coverage to the B2C segment, making its app available to private customers, Czerniejewski said.
MultiWash’s ongoing growth in the Polish market is encouraging the company to expand its app and services to a number of neighboring countries. In the Czech Republic, the business recently began to develop a chain of hand car washes that are designed to total 150 facilities in the long-term. Other prospective foreign markets in which MultiWash aims to establish its foothold include Germany, Austria, the Nordic countries, and the United Kingdom.
“In the Czech Republic, we have signed more than 50 agreements with partner car washes there, and we have not entered this market yet. We believe that we will launch our services in the Czech market by the end of this summer. We have a bit easier task because we have international customers that operate across the whole EU, and entering a new market we can offer our services to further branches with similar rules. Just like we did in Poland, we will begin with corporate customers, and after we have established a foothold in this market, we will expand to retail customers,” Czerniejewski said.
Due to the size of the Czech market, MultiWash estimates its partner network could total between 150 and 200 car washes.
Other European markets in the company’s crosshairs include Germany and the U.K., which Czerniejewski describes as “the most challenging markets to enter,” but also the ones that could boost the brand’s development on the continent.
“Germany is Europe’s largest automotive market, it’s six to eight times bigger than the Polish one. Germany is characterized by different consumer behavior patterns, a different approach to technological services. The U.K. is also an interesting market, and it has a very similar structure to the Polish car wash market,” Czerniejewski said.
TOUCHLESS CAR WASHES IN DEMAND
Meanwhile, with the demand for touchless car wash services also on the rise in the Polish market, local car wash producer Euro-Ekol is building a new production facility in Lodz, in the country’s central part, under an investment worth some PLN 13.3 million (US$3.6 million).
In late 2020, Euro-Ekol selected local construction company Mirbud to build its new production facility. The manufacturer says that, under the plan, its new factory will be opened in 2022.
Euro-Ekol was established in 1996 and initially specialized in making tunnel car washes, but in response to the rising demand for touchless car wash services, it decided to shift its focus to touchless systems.
As part of its development, the company has acquired funds from the EU to finance research and development work. A grant of about PLN 5.3 million (US$1.4 million), or roughly 36% of the project’s total value, was provided to Euro-Ekol’s initiative to develop a new, environmentally friendly touchless car wash. The investment is worth a total of PLN 14.6 million (US$3.8 million), according to data released by the manufacturer.