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"Germany and Holland are the top European carwash markets" Interview with Thom Mandos

Thom Mandos, writer for CarwashPro, the leading publication for the Dutch carwash sector, talks to PetrolPlaza about UNITI expo 2018, market trends and the lessons that Europe can learn from the U.S.



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Thom Mandos with Formula One leyend Mario Andretti
Thom Mandos with Formula One leyend Mario Andretti

How important is it for the car wash industry that trade shows such as UNITI expo set a focus on the carwash sector?

It’s very important that shows like UNITI expo exist. Carwash entrepreneurs should visit some shows every year to check out the newest developments in the sector. For websites like ours, it’s also very important. We can inform our audience about the latest innovations. Sometimes it is hard to find news about the carwash market so shows like UNITI help report about what the market is up to. UNITI is one of the biggest shows on the world on the subject so for us attendance is very important. That is also one of the reasons Promedia, the company behind CarwashPro, recently signed a partnership with the International Carwash Association about the Carwash Show Europa. From next year we will host that event with a lot of speakers.

In your opinion what are the current main trends in the Dutch car wash market?

First I would say more and more gas stations are opened without a shop. I think it could be interesting for the roll-over market. We have seen the concept of fuel wash to improve the selling of gas. I like that concept because no personnel is involved and people can wash their car for free after buying some fuel. On the other hand, we are getting less small entrepreneurs because the big chains are trying to get even bigger than there already are. It is good for the professionalism of the branch but maybe not for the diversity. 

Following the development in the forecourt sector, do you expect car wash companies to start rolling out new forms of payment at car wash sites (i.e. mobile payments, apps, etc.)?

More and more of those payment forms are already being introduced. Last week I was sitting with a company that is specialised in Touchless payments and paying on an account by only scanning the license plate, all to make washing more convenient. I think Apple Pay will be also more and more accepted in carwashes and the selfwashes. Also, an increasing number of companies create apps for payment. I really like the development of all these systems. In Holland we even have a selfwash where you can put on your own music while washing your car. 

The British Parliament has just started a probe into the illegal world of hand car wash sites which includes abuse of workers and damages to the environment. Do you also have a problem with illegal hand car washes in the Netherlands?

We have some. I wrote about some carwashes last few months that where doing illegal things behind the scenes of washing cars. Drugs and money laundry is probably a bigger issue than illegal hand washes. We are still looking into those problems. I know that the issue of illegal hand washes is a lot bigger in Belgium. There the government is working to solve it and trying to make a fairer market. I followed a carwash entrepreneur that has a really hard time doing business because his town and the surrounding area is flooded by illegal hand carwashes. On the other hand, the problem won’t be worse than now because the government is really on it. So for our country the problem isn't really there. Probably it’s because we have a really professional market and a really strict government when it comes to that matter.


Compared to other European countries, how do you see the current state of the Dutch car wash market?

Together with the German, the Dutch market is the top in Europe. The companies behind washing are willing to invest and try to improve the quality of the carwash. The market is professional and we have a lot of roll-overs and tunnels. My only concern is that between now and 5 years the market might be saturated. Some small towns have multiple roll-overs or selfwash systems and sometimes that makes me wonder if there is still enough market for another roll-over machine in some small town. Most of the times when you wash your car in Holland, it will be clean. No matter where you wash it. A machine is a machine and all of the main brands have good machines these days. 

You just got back from the Car Wash Show in Las Vegas. Are there any elements of the U.S. car wash market that Europe could adopt? Will we start seeing flashy lights and colourful foam any time soon?

I hope we will. In my fair opinion sometimes carwashes here in Europe could be more distinguishable and unique. A roll-over is a roll-over but when you put that roll-over in a special theme you stand out more than the one not far from yours. Washing a car, especially with kids, has a lot to do with experience – make it more fun. In the USA, for example, there are Jurassic Park themed washes. How cool is that? I have also seen some really nice touchless roll-over machines where a lot of things move and have lights; for the experience that’s a really good feature. Then you have silent brushes, some company invested a lot of money in RnD and came up with those. The feature is really cool for people that are a bit afraid of the carwash because of all the loud noise when the brushes touch the car. When I visited some carwash in the Vegas area, I really liked the rainbow foam that some tunnels spray over the car, it gives an extra dimension to the shampoo experience and didn't cost a lot extra. So some features we will probably see over here. 

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