Is the Mobile Car Washing Industry Doomed?

worker hand washing the exterior side windows

When I was very young, we ran the first mobile car wash business, we grew it into a large multistate operation, as we franchised around the country. Not only could we charge a lower price because we didn’t have half-a- million to a million dollar car wash facilities, or loan debt service to pay back, but we also didn’t have to worry about our customers driving to our facility because we came to them. It was a great time, with little competition, and an abundance of people who wanted her cars cleaned on a weekly basis.

Now then, it has been predicted by folks that own car washes that the mobile car washing industry was doomed. They stated that because the mobile car washing entrepreneurs did not collect their waste wash water in the parking lots, so they would be shut down by the authorities for violating the cities’ NPDES permit process, because you aren’t allowed to let the dirty water go into the storm drain.

All the mobile car washers decided to come up with a plan, and the industry started producing water reclamation devices to vacuum up the water off the ground, and to block the storm drains. It worked. But now there is another new technology on the horizon which won’t just hurt the mobile washing folks, but also the fixed site car washes.

There was an interesting article in GizMag Online Innovation News recently titled; “New coating technology promises self-cleaning cars,” by Darren Quick published on July 22, 2012 which stated;

“Coatings with highly water-resistant or antibacterial properties are nothing new. They use nano-sized molecular groups that provide these properties are easily and irreversibly damaged by minor contact with the surface on which they are applied. But now, researchers have enabled the creation of highly water-resistant coatings that could be applied to cars so that superficial scratches heal themselves and water droplets roll off the car, taking dirt with them.”

Interestingly enough, I had always considered that to save the labor costs I needed to design a robot, something like Asimo, and hand it a pressure washing wand, and soap mitt, and let it have after the washing of my customer’s cars. I could just sit back, watch the robot clean the car, and make money. I guess that innovation and concept is kind of out the window now, and all washed up, because now the cars may be washing themselves.

In many regards, this speaks to the future of American innovation where disruptive technology can change a whole industry overnight, perhaps this might be the last leg for the car washing industry. So maybe mobile car washing is doomed after all, it just took another 20 years to get there. Personally, I didn’t see this one coming back in the 90s, but by the turn of the new millennium I was wondering if someone would invent this new technology as PPG introduced other self-cleaning surface coatings. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this and think on it.

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