His feeling for interpersonal relationships, his sense of wanting to provide services for other people and also his ideas of pursuing his own style in doing so made Stefan Nietsch and his wife Manja decide in favour of petrol station and car wash without thinking twice and without any prior professional knowledge. "We started right away five years ago," Stefan Nietsch says today and admits: "Well, in 2016 we already had a picture of the activities of a petrol station tenant in our minds, which was provided by other petrol station tenants who were already partners of Honsel Mineralölvertriebs GmbH, because we asked them in advance about the day-to-day business and the basic day-to-day tasks. However, our partner contract for the first petrol station in Eigenrieden – a town about 20 kilometres from Worbis – was already signed and sealed at the time of these talks." Stefan Nietsch also admits that an employee who had been working there for many years kindly supported him in the course of his induction process. The Nietsch family took over their second Honsel petrol station – in Leinefelde-Worbis – in 2019, and where the refurbishment of the petrol station and car wash began in 2020. Eight employees work at both stations today.
"When we started out on our own as a petrol station partner, WashTec was already there," answers Stefan Nietsch when asked how he came to be the world market leader in the production of vehicle washing technology. "Other Honsel partners also wash and care for vehicles with WashTec technology and think very highly of it. Not without reason: "The washing and care results are excellent. I don't know of any other provider whose technology produces such compelling results." That is one thing. The other is the fast and competent service provided by a close-knit network of service technicians. "It's of little use to me if I only get service or repair help a week after I call. Because I felt I was in good hands with WashTec, I bought a SoftCare Pro2 Classic XL for my Honsel station in Eigenrieden in 2018 and just over a year ago exactly the same gantry system for the service station here in Leinefelde-Worbis." The answer to the self-posed question of why bet on a different "horse" is answered post-haste: "Great satisfaction on the one hand, and on the other hand, simplification in handling due to the identical construction and, above all, having peace of mind." In addition, great sales opportunities and variable programme structure – specifically "my best care programme 'High Gloss' care as well as 'Wax' 'Classic' and 'Express' care." Stefan Nietsch deliberately kept the programmes offered to his clients lean for the sake of clarity. "When I myself stand in front of a 'poster' with eight washes, additional options and small print underneath, I find it hard to choose. I wanted the customer to quickly see what I was offering and therefore decide easily."
The "decent" equipment of "his" SoftCare2 Pro XL has been delivering impressive washing and care results since the end of April 2020. When the silver-grey, classic-design SoftCare2 gantry starts moving, the wash begins with FoamTastic, a foam illuminated to great effect by colour changes, which falls in thread form from the unit attached to the roof dryer onto the vehicle surfaces and envelops them in a continuous, smooth coat of foam. Stefan Nietsch deliberately chose FoamTastic to make the foam application less susceptible to wind. The flashing LED lighting ensemble of the StarTrack guide rails assists with a colour-changing show at all stages of the washing and care process. This is followed by the pre-wash with high pressure from above and the sides as a flat spray. The SofTecs brush material washes the vehicles thoroughly but gently at the same time. While WheelFlash applies the chemicals to the rims with both pinpoint accuracy and full coverage, WheelJet ensures a perfect wheel and sill wash. The multi-dimensional MultiFlex side washer takes care of the most demanding cleaning tasks, especially at the rear of the vehicle. The functional FlexStream rotary nozzle not only dries the vehicles effectively, but also applies the chemicals and is also used for high-pressure washing. He clarified the dimensions for the maximum wash width and wash height with his designated WashTec sales representative. The result: 2.58 metres x 2.60 metres. "This also allows me to serve the growing van market and get the most out of vehicle washing here."
Stefan Nietsch is full of praise for the fast and problem-free installation of the new gantry technology. "I already knew the installation company commissioned by WashTec. It already carried out the work on the first new gantry system in Eigenrieden. "We are on the same wavelength. If I have a problem today, I ring them or WashTec. That works well. So far, I have always received helpful and effective assistance.
Stefan Nietsch does not leave the cleaning and maintenance of the gantry technology and wash bay in other hands. The result gives a very well-kept and clean impression. "I spend a good three hours or more on it. I clean depending on the weather, on average every second week, in winter even weekly. If you clean regularly, the work is easier and you don't require as much effort." He is equally meticulous about the water conditioning plant. It also comes from WashTec, but is not new, as it still functions and operates reliably. Quality pays. "Care and maintenance – which, by the way, also includes sludge traps and all other stages of the separator chain – are the be-all and end-all to maintaining high wash water quality." He does not leave this task to anyone else either.
The answer to the question about his marketing activities clarifies why satisfied customers are the best advertisers. "The marketing for the petrol station and car wash was done by our young people without me asking them. The advertising hook is power foam. I upgraded the three self-service washing stations here in Worbis accordingly. Word of this spread very quickly and literally went 'through the roof' immediately afterwards. Young people just love to cover their cars in foam. I'm currently offering them green foam, previously purple foam came out of the nozzles."
Another reason for the great popularity are personal contacts. "I make an effort to talk to clients in person, especially older ones – explaining things to them, chatting to them and – most importantly – listening to them. I also ask them if everything is all right. That goes down well." Microfibre cloths, insect remover and antifreeze also go down well, which Stefan Nietsch adds to the wash depending on the season for those customers who buy the best programme. "If I give something to the customers in one place, I get something back from them in another place. This is the case when I make them feel that they are saving on a service. Then I find that they buy a coffee at the petrol station shop, for example, or reward themselves with sweets. Of course, this does not apply to all customers. However, the vast majority are willing to do so. And as a result, many car wash customers are very satisfied and are prepared to spend one or two euros more in the shop. If a customer goes to a car wash, paid a lot of money beforehand and is dissatisfied afterwards, they won't go there again." The wash quality is what distinguishes the Honsel petrol station in Leinefelde-Worbis from the regional competition. And, with WashTec's reliable best-performance technology, Stefan Nietsch also manages a respectable average wash price of ten euros. Congratulations Stefan Nietsch, thank you WashTec.
Text/images: Bernd Fiehöfer