Georg Huber has travelled the length and breadth of Germany, has stood in 30 conveyor tunnel systems wearing his rain gear, has spoken with all the relevant manufacturers of car washes, dissected offers, and painstakingly calculated operating costs for all the system components in Excel lists. Since the 5 October 2015, a SoftLine2 system from WashTec has been in use in the 55 m long Waschhalle car wash in Tuttlingen.
Why? "I sell cleanliness", replies the 34-year-old. He is a perfectionist, which is why he is convinced that only linear technology guarantees perfect washing and drying results, coupled with the lowest operating costs. He says this whilst talking in his minimally equipped office out of conviction and not because the area sales manager from WashTec is sitting opposite him. "I have never met anyone quite like him before in this industry", says Marcus Schmoll, area sales manager at WashTec.
Despite this, Georg Huber has only been involved with the industry for two years. Two academic titles, periods abroad, management position in sales with managerial responsibility for 120 staff – and now wearing blue overalls in the car wash. Not an interruption in his career, but the start of continuity. 14 moves in a young life, the news in summer that he was to become a father for the first time, was a signal for Georg Huber that the time had come to put down some roots – in Tuttlingen.
Sketch a car wash
This is where he grew up and went to school, where his parents live. And this is where the family still own a commercial site. Not far from the railway station, built up on the rubble from the Second World War, situated off the main road, not directly connected to the through traffic and furthermore not tailored for a commercial development. "Let's sketch a car wash", said his father – who does have some experience in the industry. He once operated two car washes himself.
Nevertheless, there were never any plans that his son would follow in his footsteps. Georg Huber set about not only sketching out a car wash, but also starting up a business, equipped with methodical expertise, business experience, marketing know-how, a keen interest in technical solutions and an open mind – and with one goal in mind: to secure his family's income sustainably with a car wash business.
He analysed the level of traffic, the traffic flows, the local competitors with regard to equipment, services and location, evaluated example feasibility studies for car washes, calculated and recalculated, before arriving at the conclusion that he, with conservatively estimated sales of 40,000 washes a year, would rather swap his desk working at a lift manufacturer's for the control panel in a car wash bay.
Goal: regular customers
Tuttlingen, 34,000 inhabitants, district town, situated at the heart of the Schwarzwald-Baar-Heuberg region. What sounds provincial on paper is in fact, with 600 companies, the world capital of medical technology and a prosperous small town. Locally, there is only one, slightly ageing car wash, with the next closest being situated 15 and/or 30 km away. Up to 38,000 vehicles cross the nearby Aesculap square everyday, 24,000 of which race past the 12 m advertising tower travelling in both directions. Heading into town, the Waschhalle car wash centre is approached directly via a turn-off, whilst heading out of town a little local knowledge is required.
However, Georg Huber is not just focussing on passing motorists, but above all on those who head specifically for the Waschhalle car wash on a regular basis. In preparation for the grand opening, he reserved billboards in relevant locations, published a special multi-page advert in the local weekly newspaper, worked meticulously on making the website search engine optimised and posted adverts on Facebook profiles. The criteria: 18 years and older, residing in Tuttlingen or within a 12 km radius.
With success. Since the opening, he has handed out more than 6,000 free loyalty cards. In spite of the free hand-outs, the customer loyalty effect is working. Holders of a loyalty card save one euro on a "Specialty wash" (€12.80), and two euros on a "Master wash" (€15.80). In addition, cardholders also receive a cleaning cloth for four euros, which they can exchange for a clean one each time they use the car wash – cleanliness you can experience.
Thanks to the printed on barcode, the loyalty card can also double up as a prepaid card. In spite of giving a bonus of up 20 percent, the model pays off for Georg Huber. If a customer without a card spends eleven euros per wash on average, another customer will spend twelve euros in spite of his bonus. What is more, the prepaid top-ups go directly into the cash flow.
VIPs in the Waschhalle car wash
And anyone who arrives with one of the 250 limited and personalised loyalty cards can expect to receive VIP treatment in the car wash. For Huber, this is more than just a marketing stunt, but a tactic he also uses to raise his staff's awareness that the holders of these cards are important sales drivers and multipliers.
Like the neighbouring post office depot, which sends its entire fleet consisting of 30 vehicles through the car wash once a month. He explains the technology and advantages to local tradesmen, since even vans up to 2.40 high can use the car wash. He also guides the fans of lowered suspensions personally through the system in order to show them that, with the plastic-covered and 33 cm wide conveyor belt, their treasured aluminium wheels will not get scratched, and thanks to the washing and drying technology, the SoftTecs brushes and the special ShineTecs paintwork protection, that their "precious metal" will not come to any harm.
Georg Huber understands that many people feel uneasy about going through a conveyor tunnel system. He is committed to creating a sense of spaciousness, light and absolute cleanliness. The pre-wash is bathed in a bright 500 Lux light, the white walls reflect the artificial light and on the driver's side natural daylight shines into the car wash through a large, end-to-end row of windows.
In planning the facility, Georg Huber has not only thought about the physical comfort and the quality of the stay for his customers, but also that of his staff. The pre-wash is carried out protected from the wind and weather inside the tunnel, and dispenses entirely with manual high-pressure washing. For this job, he has had turbo nozzles with up to 70 bar pressure installed. After all, Georg Huber knows – high-pressure washing by hand is a tough job, and he would like to get quite a few more years of enjoyment out of his 'masterwork'.
Text/ Pictures: Magazine tankstelle 05/2016