A location on a busy main road should be the basic requirement for a profitable car wash business. But even on the outskirts of town, good sales can be achieved if the service is right – as one car dealership in Oberasbach shows.
Late afternoon in Oberasbach, a small town with a good 17,000 residents in the Nuremberg metropolitan region. The rush hour traffic has reached its peak, almost 1,000 cars per hour now drive past a small Fiat car dealership with an attached petrol station on Hainbergstraße. Outside rush hours, the two-lane road connecting the districts of Kreutles and Unterasbach is much quieter, as agricultural fields begin on the other side of Unterasbach, and the villages beyond can be reached faster on other routes.
The well-known recipe for success Location, Location, Location obviously does not work here. Nevertheless, a good 10,000 cars roll through the car wash of the dealership every year. The lion's share of this comes from external, paying customers. Only 2,000 washes are internal orders from the dealership. Company owner Alfred Bettschnitt is therefore fully committed to quality: "We always keep our car wash in tip-top condition and have always used good washing gantries."
Recently, a "SoftCare Pro Classic Race" from WashTec has been providing the necessary shine in Oberasbach and the surrounding area. Bettschnitt has invested around 70,000 euros in the new gantry, including new high-pressure pumps and the underbody washing system. "Customers must have a reason for coming here, so I pay special attention to the cleanliness and condition of the washing brushes." Brushes made of closed-pore foam, which are particularly gentle on the paintwork, are thus used in his gantry car wash. Foreign matter such as sand and other dirt particles can hardly get stuck in the closed surface. "With black cars, you don't see any streaks or micro-scratches even after frequent washing," says Bettschnitt with satisfaction. To ensure that this remains so in the long term, he regularly cleans the brushes with a steam jet, although this is not actually required. Nevertheless he looks back somewhat wistfully on the well-known plastic bristle brushes. "In rural areas the cars don't get as clean with the foam brushes as they were with the bristles before, so you have to do a lot more pre-cleaning," reports the company owner. Other reasons for buying the machine were the high washing speed of the Race and the response time of the manufacturer's customer service. "The Race is over a minute faster than my old Istobal, with at least the same washing results per vehicle – the information in WashTec's brochure is correct, I took the liberty of checking it with the stopwatch," says Bettschnitt frankly. He also attaches great importance to reliability. "A car wash should not be allowed to stop because of a defect – the customer might come back a second time if they were unable to wash their car. But you don't get a third chance, you've lost the customer," says Bettschnitt confidently.
The petrol station staff also win over older car wash customers with better customer service. When the customer buys a wash, they receive a receipt with a code that they have to type into the operator panel in front of the wash bay. But not everyone is able to do this, just as not everyone is able to correctly position their own car between the floor rails in the wash bay. The staff are happy to intervene immediately. The Hainberg dealership has solved the problem of driving out of the bay in a simple and customer-friendly way with a second gate.
Car dealerships often only use their gantry car washes internally. There are good reasons for this, because a car wash has to be open much longer than a normal car dealership, especially at weekends and in the evenings. Many business owners also fear that they will not be able to wash their own customer vehicles immediately during busy periods. The Hainberg car dealership also knows this problem. Alfred Bettschnitt, however, solves it quite pragmatically – he simply hands over a washing voucher in case the wash does not work out in time.
Bettschnitt has been able to win over a number of other car dealerships in the immediate vicinity to ensure the necessary capacity utilisation. Otherwise, Bettschnitt does not use nationwide advertising for the washing business on radio or television. Only in some local advertising papers does the dealership – "around the church tower" – advertise special offers. Here Bettschnitt also uses the well-known name of the washing chemicals manufacturer Sonax, from which the company procures its detergents. For a good washing result, drying is particularly important, because customers do not like to see water stains on the freshly washed paintwork. And here the roaring dryer blowers play a lesser role; much more important is the perfect adjustment of the gantry's detergent dosing pumps. A service which is also provided by the chemical manufacturer. In Oberasbach the adjustment to the water quality is a little easier than elsewhere, because the car wash, which has been in place at this site for a very long time, only uses fresh water. You can smell it – there's not a whiff of the musty smell often found in wash bays that use water recycling.
No sooner the sun starts shining through the clouds for longer in spring than a queue often forms right through the car dealership's premises despite the fast car wash. The mechanics then have a job getting the cars out of the workshop gates. But this is something that Bettschnitt gladly accepts. Most of the waiting customers stroll through the showroom of the car dealership with interest whilst waiting – and many a Fiat had a new owner shortly afterwards.
Text/ pictures: Ottmar Holz, kfz-betrieb, Ausgabe 14/2019