On Saturdays there is a traffic jam at the car dealership Meinhold. Not in the figurative sense, but literally. Particularly in summer, customers often wind their vehicles way bumper to bumper across the yard of the VW and Audi marque in the Vogtland district of Saxony. The reason for this: the car wash at the dealership. "It has already happened that we had to send customers away because we could not keep our opening hours indefinitely," says Managing Director Jürgen Meinhold. The car dealership records around 25 to 40 car washes on average days. At peak times in the summer, however, the number of car washes can be as high as 65, with end customers accounting for around two-thirds on working days and 90 percent on Saturdays. The car dealership thus generates around 50,000 euros in sales per year. "This is a very satisfactory result," says Meinhold. In view of the 300 new cars and 900 used cars that the car dealership sells every year, the car wash turnover is naturally negligible. But since the car dealership needs a facility anyway to return customer vehicles washed and to keep the GW fleet in good shape, the car wash represents a good additional income, emphasises the managing director.
Added to this is the indirect benefit: For many residents in the region, the car wash is a first and later often regular contact point with the car dealership. The proportion of non-customers with third-party vehicles is around 25 percent. For the car dealership, it's the opportunity to turn these customers into buyers at some point. Because if at some point these customers are about to buy a car, the dealership is not only already known and familiar as a potential contact partner - there is also a real chance that the customers will come across a suitable offer during their visit. "We therefore place demonstration cars specifically where the queue will later be," says Franziska Wolf, the marketing manager. Many customers even get out of their cars and look around the premises and showroom while they are standing in line or their car is in the wash. This not only helps in the long term when customers think about a new vehicle and then remember the Meinhold car dealership, but also in the short term when selling accessories. Meinhold estimates that the spontaneous purchases made by waiting customers generate an additional 5,000 euros a year - without having to do anything. In addition, the service area also benefits, as many customers take the opportunity to clarify questions on site - for example, after an unidentifiable squeak that then turns out to be in need of repair. Existing customers also receive washing vouchers from time to time to keep them loyal to the car dealership. "The resulting customer satisfaction exceeds the financial outlay," says workshop manager André Meinhold.
There are several reasons why the car dealership manages to achieve such good capacity utilisation with the car wash. On the one hand, the offer has been established since 1998 and is therefore well known by both existing customers and residents. Secondly, there are simply hardly any competitors. Particularly in the commercial vehicle sector, the car dealership is largely unrivalled in the surrounding area because there are hardly any facilities large enough to accommodate all variants of vans such as Crafter or Sprinter. Both of these factors ensure plenty of word-of-mouth propaganda. "I hardly have to advertise at all," says Jürgen Meinhold. Franziska Wolf also notices this: "We have noticed that many customers come to our website on their own initiative, just to find out about our range of washing products". Nevertheless, the company also runs advertising campaigns in social media such as Facebook and Instagram as well as in local newspapers. This should ensure a consistently high level of awareness and additional capacity utilisation, especially in the low season. In addition, the car dealership advertises with large signs in the neighbouring shopping centre and on the nearby feeder road to the A72 motorway. These attract walk-in customers who would otherwise hardly exist, as the car wash cannot be seen directly from the street, unlike many petrol stations.
However, opening their own plant to end customers also causes problems. Because the customer rush cannot be exactly predicted and therefore sometimes collides with the processes in the car dealership. Especially during the rush hours in summer, waiting customers sometimes obstruct the car dealership processes, so that demonstration cars or repaired customer vehicles cannot be washed as planned. "This is unfortunately the case and cannot always be avoided," admits Jürgen Meinhold. Sometimes, therefore, service customer vehicles have to be brought forward in the queue in order to complete the workshop order on time. In these cases, however, there is always a clarifying discussion with the waiting car wash customers, adds André Meinhold. Careful planning is important to ensure that this happens as rarely as possible. "We try to make use of gaps or wash demonstration cars at half past six when there are no customers waiting," says Meinhold. Basically, however, this is a luxury problem - after all, it shows that the offer is well received.
Info on the car wash
The Meinhold car dealership uses an "EasyWash gantry car wash" from WashTec. It has been in use since the end of January 2019. Acquisition and installation of the system in place of the existing system cost around 55,000 euros. As the car dealership has an existing connection to the local sewage treatment plant for the wash hall, no additional water treatment system was necessary. This would have cost around 100,000 euros. The project was completed within three months of the order being placed. The dismantling of the old system and the installation of the new one was completed within three days. The company is extremely satisfied with the investment: "Even on freshly painted vehicles there are no traces whatsoever after washing," praises André Meinhold. The fact that the car dealership uses the system for its own vehicles and therefore attaches great importance to a well-maintained system with good washing quality is, in his eyes, another reason why end customers are taking up the offer in such large numbers.
Photos and text: Meinhold GmbH car dealership, Armin Wutzer/AUTOHAUS 4/2020