"The AUWA sales representative responsible for us visits us on a regular basis, firstly in order to monitor the washing, care and drying results on the vehicles, then to check the washing and care chemicals, check the settings on the dosing pumps and, if necessary, readjust them. He informs us about new products and their special quality features," replies Philipp Wegerhoff when asked about customer service for wash chemicals from WashTec's subsidiary AUWA. "One day, he told us about a new, unique product for sealing vehicle surfaces that AUWA chemical specialists were working on intensively." A very special product, which should even surpass the high-quality preserving properties of RainTecs. The AUWA rep announced in spring 2018 that the market launch was imminent and asked whether "we could imagine taking part in the pilot phase of ShieldTecs®." The ever-busy, inquisitive entrepreneurs Andreas Herrmann and Philipp Wegerhoff, both founders and Managing Directors of HW Finish GmbH in the south of Cologne, eagerly picked up on this extremely interesting news and promptly accepted the special offer. The dates for the changeover of the chemicals and fine tuning of the dosing pumps were followed by an approximately four-week field trial, which began in mid-October 2018.
It quickly became clear that the new high-end polymer ShieldTecs® would only be sold for the Platinum wash, the highest quality wash in the Cologne programme quartet. "The results were not only convincing in every respect, but exceeded our expectations. We noticed that on the one hand the vehicle surfaces have an amazing, even higher degree of gloss, on the other hand they are dried even better." A customer confirmed the commendatory opinion of the two managing directors just over a week after the official market launch at HW Wash, the subsidiary of HW Finish. "She called to tell us enthusiastically that her car had never been so shiny." An amazing and probably unique moment, because "normally a customer only calls us when they want to complain about the washing result on their car." The regular customers of HW Wash, who Philipp Wegerhoff and Andreas Herrmann interviewed whilst they were vacuuming and caring for the vehicle interiors after washing, also reacted extremely positively to the new protective shine.
Both managing directors judge and rate the incredible performance of ShieldTecs® by no means frivolously or superficially, since as experienced vehicle finishers they know what they are talking about. "We have been maintaining vehicles inside and out since 1999, preparing vehicle paintwork, carrying out spot repairs, repairing hail damage in Germany and beyond," says Philipp Wegerhoff, describing everyday business life and continues: "We are very critical when it comes to judging washing chemicals and we are always enthusiastic about AUWA products." So enthusiastic that it literally gushes out of Philipp Wegerhoff: "I mention the rim cleaner from AUWA as an example and admit that in the past we have tried many different rim cleaners from other manufacturers, but always came back to AUWA because we found that the anti-drying protection was simply awesome."
On the front part of the commercial corner plot in the Cologne district of Rodenkirchen, the two opened their own automatic vehicle washing facility in 2015 and, in addition to the multi-faceted range of vehicle preparation services, had three self-service washing stations installed and provided washing customers with six vacuum cleaning stations and a semi-automatic mat cleaner. The wash bay building is located immediately next to the preparation hall of HW Finish GmbH & Co. KG, where all maintenance and repair work is carried out to make every vehicle look good again – paintwork preparation, spot repair, repair of dents and hail damage, replacement and repair of LPG, for example. "When we bought the plot and designed the entire business together with our architect, we integrated WashTec technology right from the start. For example, we designed the self-service washing facilities in such a way that they can be easily accessed from the two driveways on the premises with plenty of room for manoeuvring. Accident-free statistics to date show us that we planned well and built accordingly."
Philipp Wegerhoff and Andreas Herrmann know that HW Wash offers their customers the best washing performance with the textile conveyor tunnel system from the world market leader for car washes. The modular concept of the SoftLine² allowed them to select and install exactly the technology on a 30-metre chain that delivers such a perfect automatic pre-wash and main wash and achieves drying and care results that not only meet the highest demands, but are unparalleled in Cologne-Rodenkirchen. After thorough manual pre-washing on the generously dimensioned pre-washing area integrated into the bay, the high-quality smart-LED entrance gantry welcomes every wash customer with the most important messages in the transparent, backlit gantry front – the wash programmes "Platinum", "Gold", "Silver" and "Bronze" as well as "Promotion" on the driver's side and important instructions for entering on the passenger's side. Two bright LED spotlights arranged in pairs on the side panels of the wash bay set the scene for the active foam mist that hisses from the side and horizontal nozzles of the attractive entrance gantry. The longitudinal, two and a half metres long wheel and sill washer starts to move as soon as the lateral rods of the high-pressure pre-washing unit have finished their work. In the jungle of linearly moving roof and side brushes, vehicles are cleaned extremely thoroughly yet gently. The blue-coloured effect lighting in the care module takes the darkness out of the section between the care and dryer stations. The subsequent powerful contour-tracking roof and side dryer – which extends the drying time by about one third – dries the vehicles so well that the absorbent strips of the following diagonally revolving cloth dryer achieve drip-free drying results.
Above all, Philipp Wegerhoff praises the self-service washing stations. "They have proved very popular from the outset. Nevertheless, during the initial phase, we conducted many discussions with customers in which we advised them on "how to wash in the booths" and explained the reason: "With our idea of building self-service washing stations here at all costs, because there was not and is not a single self-service washing station within a radius of eight to ten kilometres, we were virtually breaking new ground at our site." That is why he still recalls very well that it took some time for the customers to get to grips with the self-service washing technology. "Pre-cleaner, high-pressure cleaner with power foam, rinse aid and all that with the SelfTecs principle needed some explanation. And by the time we had explained to the customers and they understood that we were offering them osmosis water for the rinsing process, which would guarantee them spot-free finishing after drying – without using the leather cloth – it took a while." "HW" know today that the time-consuming explanatory work was more than worthwhile. "The number of customers grew considerably within three and a half years and reached a more than satisfactory basis for us."
On-site explanations, however, only formed part of a concentrated marketing strategy. "We advertised on a large scale both online – social media and our company website – and with classic print materials. However not with the watering can, but really target-group oriented. Poster advertising, especially in outdoor areas, is still very important for us – printed as flyers, advertised in the local daily press, large-format posters in outdoor areas, vehicle wrapping. After each advertising drive, no matter which channel, we noticed a huge boost in the washing business."
HW Finish and HW Wash are successful as full-service providers overall primarily because they offer the necessary services for all visible vehicle surfaces. "The combination with our workshop, in which we prepare vehicles and carry out interior and intensive interior cleaning, polishing work, paintwork cleaning and sealing as well as ceramic sealing for very high-quality vehicles, has made us very successful in the market. It certainly helped us that we also remove dents without respraying and blending-in repairs of bumpers." Car washing with state-of-the-art WashTec system technology closes the care cycle for the full-service provider "HW" at the highest level. "I simply can't say anything negative about WashTec," Philipp Wegerhoff finally emphasises.
Text/ Pictures: Bernd Fiehöfer