Rogue car wash sites have been a plague on legitimate operators for a number of years. Because they operate outside the regulations, ignoring minimum wage rules, environmental requirements, and paying little or no tax and rates, they have been able to undercut the legal trade. Despite intense lobbying by industry groups this illegality never appeared to be a priority for the authorities, and the response was patchy at best.
Over the past few years legitimate car wash businesses have suffered as hand car wash operations paying no regard to laws, such as the national minimum wage, taxes, local rates and environmental regulations were able to undercut them, but there has been renewed optimism in the sector recently.
There's no denying that in recent times car washes have taken a pounding from unfair competition. But unlike the fuel side of the business, where supermarket giants have been using their financial muscle to undercut the rest of the market, it has been hand-wash minnows, often dodging the costs of taxes, rates, environmental regulations and all the other red tape legitimate businesses comply with, who have leeched trade away from the forecourts.
Drivers visiting the Shell forecourts in Hinchley Wood, London and Virginia Water, Surrey, can give their cars a treat a touchless wash. Machines supplied and maintained by two key UK suppliers, WashTec and Wilcomatic, have been installed and the results and customer feedback will be carefully monitored.
Car wash revenues on forecourts have taken something of a nosedive in recent years and some fuel retailers have given up on car washing altogether. There are retailers that have chosen to just offer jet washing and others that have decided to compete with hand car washers head on by opening hand wash operations on their own sites. But there are others that are looking to new technology to differentiate themselves from facilities down the road.