The Aral petrol station in Gera in eastern Thuringia, which has been operated by its tenant Cynthia Schumann since the summer of 2013, is located in the south of the city and on the outskirts of the most populous district of Lusan. The entrances lead from the B92 main road onto the spacious rectangular site not only to the pumps and in front of the shop, but also to the self-service car wash and a conveyor tunnel system. When the first customers arrive at the pre-wash area early in the morning, Susan Kunz grabs the petrol station's service bike and cycles the one hundred metre distance to the car wash. After all, the customers should not be kept waiting to wash their cars. As a competent advisor, she recommends a high-quality washing programme and then starts an extremely thorough manual pre-wash with AUWA chemical products. "Our pre-washer is a very friendly, hard-working young woman who knows the car wash business very well," says Cynthia Schumann and characterises her as a very confident employee who won't stand for any lip from those customers who complain about her working there. "One woman and two men work at the car wash," explains the busy tenant, who has been driving from Chemnitz to Gera-Lusan every morning for four and a half years.
The Aral petrol station in Gera is one of 26 stations in Germany where vehicles are cleaned and maintained in a car wash. It is also one of the 1,200 automatic car washes that offer customers the "Super Wash" brand. "Super Wash is a brand of Aral and stands for our washing system business," says Christian Krebs, Category Manager CarWash Germany, BP Europe SE. "Our Aral research team works together with WashTec on developing programmes for the machine technology they offer and install at each station, and also works with AUWA on the chemicals to optimise and perfect the car washing process. The Aral man defines the goal he pursues as "to create exclusivity for washing customers". WashTec and AUWA are exactly the right business partners to offer customers brilliant results in vehicle washing.
For the car wash in Gera's Heeresbergstrasse, November 2014 marked a milestone when WashTec service technicians removed the old technology modules from the system and replaced them with new ones along the 25-metre drag chain. The high flexibility of the SoftLine2 Vario concept allowed them to significantly increase the washing and care performance for motor vehicles without major modifications and to equip the car wash business at the station for the future. The covered pre-wash area was equipped with WashTec high-pressure pre-wash modules. This is where the preparation for automatic vehicle washing begins for every vehicle, and during which even stubborn dirt in known critical areas of the vehicle can be effectively tackled. In a second pre-wash step, a foam lance is used, from whose nozzle powerful and voluminous pre-cleaner foam flows and with which the pre-washer covers the vehicles with a blanket of white foam. Manual high-pressure and foam pre-washing one after the other provide the best prerequisites for achieving a truly perfect cleaning result for each vehicle during the final wash. "Manual pre-washing is generally and also immensely important to us," emphasises Cynthia Schumann. The modern entry aid for washing customers, a roller-mounted displacement plate, guides the left front wheel of the vehicle safely onto the enclosed steel conveyor belt and under the entry gantry. The FoamSensation foam jets on its back are ready to blanket the vehicles once again in a wall of foam. The already impressive spectacle has an even more intense effect on drivers and passengers thanks to the multi-coloured LED lights that illuminate the foam wall from behind. In its discussions with WashTec, Aral made a conscious decision for this feature because modern car washes need to deliver both results and an experience.
Before the wheels are pulled past the wheel washers, which travel along for more than a metre, the rims are sprayed with chemicals, thus preparing the problem zone of the rims a third time for thorough brush washing. The magenta-coloured LED lighting also adds striking visual accents, which have an even more intense effect at dusk and in the dark. Four oscillating BPS spot spray nozzles, which wash away the coarse dirt from the vehicle with 70 bar high pressure, deliver the finale of the automatic pre-wash stage. Only now does the automatic brush washing cycle start, the longitudinal wheel and sill washers and two roof brushes begin to rotate. In the SoftLine² Vario brush station, the powerful but gently cleansing shampoo is first applied to the vehicle surfaces from three side nozzles before they come into contact with the rotating SofTecs washing material of the roof and side brushes. WashTec's linear technology ensures that the washing material remains in contact with the vehicle exterior surfaces to be cleaned for as long as possible. After washing, a special wax is sprayed on, which makes the water bead off the surface of the vehicle. Subsequently, the contour-tracking blower dryer dries the vehicle. And the revolving cloth dryer then draws its 45 cloths over the vehicle surfaces to remove any last drops of water. A countdown LED traffic light housed inside a stainless steel housing counts down the time in seconds, before signalling to the customer to leave the wash bay.
Attention-grabbing signals are extremely important anyway – especially those that ensure that your customer base grows steadily. As a partner of Aral, Cynthia Schumann receives advertising packages from the Bochum head office. The marketing campaigns run twice for two months per calendar year. These are centrally controlled, supra-regional campaigns involving all Aral petrol station partners with Super Wash. She can do her own advertising outside these periods and receive supporting material either at cost price or even free of charge. Cynthia Schumann sees herself as being on the right track to steadily growing the car wash business. "We have lots of private customers. They only come when the weather is fine," says Cynthia Schumann. That is why it is important to her to find loyal customers and continue to win new ones. Only customers who are truly satisfied with the car wash services, who perceive the car wash as an experience and are happy to come back again, bring in the numbers for the car wash under the "Super Wash" brand, which also make Cynthia Schumann beam.
Text/ pictures: Bernd Fiehöfer