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A drive into the Car Wash Market


International Perspective

 The aftermarket auto segment on the international front that has been moving in parallel with the auto industry, is looking at alternate markets, as many of the European markets is fast shrinking.

 Speaking to international car wash industry players in Italy – the manufacturers and service providers – it is felt that the European market, flushed with car wash facilities, has almost saturated and the scope for newer opportunities are limited. Apart from Russia and Eastern Europe, Africa and other far-east countries, the manufacturers are upbeat about the Middle East and Indian markets.

“Looking at the economic conditions, especially in Italy, we are trying to export as much as possible since last year,” says Andrea Bianco, Export Manager-Aquarama, Italy. “We have experienced very good response in exhibitions and are looking forward to participate in expos in Dubai and India. The Middle-east, Saudi Arabia and Oman markets are very interesting. In fact, in Dubai we have established good contacts and are in the process of installing our machine in a new project. We have lined up several projects for this year which are at the concluding stages. This includes India too. As soon as we complete the Dubai project, we will be focussing on India.

“Unlike the Russian and European markets, the approach of the user is different in the ME and Indian markets. For example, take the use of brushes. While brushes are an inherent part of car care, in Russia and ME customers are uncomfortable and fear that brushes can leave scratches. Hence, we had to adapt to the needs of the customer and have customized car wash with high pressure cleaning facility. So we have our portal gantry without brushes and just high pressure and water,” Andrea adds.

“It is not just the approach or attitudes, even the decision making process in India is much slow,” adds Erico, Hawk.

 “Europe is more of a traditional business but ME and far-east is a developing market. We see a lot of opportunities but it is first important to understand the culture of the people to know their expectations. Everyone wants quality but cultural aspect have to be considered,” says Sandro Bellinzes, Export Manager, MTM Hydro, Italy.

Manufacturers who have entered the Indian market previously either through a customer or a short time importer, have burnt their fingers in a few instances. The skepticism and speculation arising over past experiences has deterred players to explore into the Indian market.

Some of the manufacturers in the cleaning business are also providing solutions for car care in the Indian market. “We participate in the auto shows and also the cleaning shows, including the Clean India Shows in India, says Mark Winter, Export Manager, Maer, Italy.

“India and ME markets are big and tempting. We have sold some machines in India, especially steam cleaning for the food manufacturing companies. However, because of the low-cost Chinese machine infiltration in India and the high price we pay as import duty on our machines, it is a difficult to establish a good business model. We are looking at participating in the forthcoming Clean India Pulire Show in Mumbai and the CMEP show in Dubai,” adds Mark.

Car cleaning chemical manufacturers, on the other hand, are viewing closer markets, including North Africa and South America. While the ME and Indian market seem interesting, the transportation cost involved in exporting to these markets is rather discouraging.

 Some of the chemical manufacturers who are exporting extensively to the Fareast and Asian markets are looking at expanding into the ME and Indian markets. “While Italy is a saturated market and we already have a lot of customers now, it is important for us to expand into the other European and other markets,” says Krizia Eisera, Export Department, Kimicar, Italy.

“We have ready-to-use and also professional concentrated range of products and are already exporting to Romania, Uruguay, Taiwan, China, Albania, Switzerland, France, Spain and so on. The ME and Indian market are growing by the day and we are interested in expanding into those markets too. At present, we do not have anyone importing from these countries but we hope to start soon,” adds Krizia.

 Lavorwash, leading cleaning equipment manufacturer from Italy, has been operating through several distributors in India. “This year we have introduced new models in the steam cleaning and high pressure with foaming facility for the car wash segment,” says Giovanni Mora, Operation Manager, Lavorwash, Italy. “These products have generated a lot of interest as steam can also be used for sanitizing the interiors of the car.

“These machines will generate interest in the Indian market too eventually. India is not yet ready, basically due to the cost factor. Being labour intensive, customers invest say about $100 on a cleaner than invest in machines.

“Moreover, the approach towards car cleaning is different in India and Europe. In India, people prefer to take their cars to the dealers or service stations to get their cars cleaned. However, in Europe and also in Italy, it is very common for the car owner to clean the car himself at the car washing bay. It is a simple process at the washing bay where the customer parks the car in the bay, selects the washing program, inserts the coin and cleans the car. This system does not have a drying process but the chemicals used in washing makes the car ready for using. The water used for cleaning consists of chemicals and drying wax which does not let the water settle on the surface. In India, probably there is only one such facility on the way to Pune.

“Due to the rapid changes taking place in this market, the demand is likely to go up. At this moment, since the volume of consumption of our machines in India is not very big, it is not conducive to open a subsidiary or branch office. Being a manufacturer, we will wait for better conditions to consider opening a facility in India for some of our product range. Until then we will go with our distributor network.

“Presently, we have about four importers in Delhi, five in Mumbai and several small players in other areas. We are also providing customized pressure jets to Eureka Forbes and Sealedair for the domestic market. We already have sold about 20,000 machines in the domestic line in India,” adds Mora.

– Mohana M



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