"Once someone washes their vehicle in a proper car wash they won’t go back to hand washing," insists independent retailer David Charman.
"More people are paying for their cars to be washed, and it’s up to us to show them where they should be spending their money."
David owns the Parkfoot Garage group in Kent where he runs a successful car wash operation. He is also chairman of the recently formed Car Wash Association (CWA), a group set up to promote the car wash industry.
The group was originally named the Car Wash Campaign Group (CWCG), and was set up to focus on two main issues seen as the biggest threats to the legitimate car wash industry: unregulated hand car washes and drought orders.
The CWCG recently became an association and changed its name to the CWA, a move the group says will give it the opportunity to grow - and offer a range of benefits to members in the future.
Says David: "I always felt the group should be a vehicle for promoting car washes, and not a campaign group with just one campaign that could be over and finished.
"The Car Wash Association stands for all of us in the industry working together, we aim to provide a voice for the car wash industry and to create a level playing field for all of us.
"The group represents all strands of the industry that provide responsible and legal car valeting services to drivers in the UK. We also want to make sure people don’t miss out on opportunities when it comes to running their car washes.
"It’s not about ruling out hand car washes - after all, most of our members have jet washes on their forecourts - it’s more about outlining the pluses and minuses of all kinds of car washes.
"We need to encourage people to see that the best way to wash their cars is in a good quality and legitimate car wash. It’s not acceptable for people to wash their cars at home any more; it’s not good for the environment as it uses lots of water and the chemicals go into the ground. In fact, it’s illegal in some countries.
"We’re seeing some amazing developments in car wash technology - those of us who went to last month’s Automechanika trade show in Frankfurt witnessed first hand how things are moving forward - and we have a real opportunity for the industry to work together to raise awareness and promote this."
The group came together after concerned members of the industry held an informal meeting at last year’s International Forecourt and Fuel Equipment (IFFE) show.
Supported by leading car wash manufacturers, oil companies and retailers, the group grew and it has successfully managed to raise awareness with a number of agencies.
== Hand car wash closures ==
The group has been working with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) to close down rogue hand car wash operations, and says its actions have already resulted in two closure notices and dozens of enforcement visits. The advantage of working as a group is that by reporting cases centrally and anonymously, retailers are not at risk of repercussions - while it also demonstrates the scale of such activity to the authorities. The CWA has also been in dialogue with the Environment Agency about action against bigger retailers and landowners who allow unregulated hand car washing on their sites.
Meanwhile, the group has been calling on the government to introduce General Binding Rules (GBR) to make it an offence to put trade effluent down a surface water drain, as is already the case in Scotland.
The Environment Agency currently needs to prove pollution is taking place in order to bring a prosecution. The CWA says the new rules would make shutting down rogue car washes much easier.
The next step is for the group to respond to the impending DEFRA consultation on this issue, urging the government body to introduce GBR as part of its responsibility under the Water Framework Directive. The campaign has also been generating political interest as MPs express their concerns about the environmental damage and unfair competition of unregulated car wash operators. A parliamentary motion laid down in the spring has steadily grown in support with 32 signatures, and the group expects a debate in Parliament on the issue to take place in the next session.
The CWA has also had some success in regard to drought orders. It has taken part in a government consultation on the future of drought restrictions where it called for a standard approach to water limits and drought orders at times of water restrictions. It argued that the current system offered no consistency and no incentives for operators to invest in water-efficient machinery. The government agreed and asked the water industry to draft a code of practice to guide water authorities on how to implement drought orders. The CWA is part of the group of stakeholders helping to draft this guidance. Now the group wants more members to give it a louder voice.
According to David and CWA deputy chairman Michael Harris (managing director of WashTec), one of the benefits for members is that they can get direct participation in a forum that regularly discusses the environmental, legal and commercial conditions of the market. In addition, the CWA will give members marketing tips and advice on how to close down a suspected illegal car wash in their area. Over time it aims to develop guidelines and standards of best practice and "develop communication strategies to reach the general public and to improve the competitive position of CWA members".
=== Car Wash association - the facts ===
* The group was formed under the name of the Car Wash Campaign Group (CWCG), by a group of retailers at the International Forecourt and Fuel Equipment (IFFE) show at the NEC in Birmingham in April 2007.
* At a general meeting in September 2008, the CWCG decided to become an Association, and change its name to the Car Wash Association (CWA).
* The chairman of the CWA is David Charman, who runs the Parkfoot Garage group in Kent.
* The deputy chairman of the group is Michael Harris, managing director of car wash company WashTec.
* The group’s objectives include: providing a voice for responsible car wash businesses; promoting the commercial car washing industry; being a research and statistical centre, aggregating and publishing statistics, and providing analysis on car washing and other relevant market information; being a technical centre providing commentary, guidance and advice on all legal and other regulatory developments; providing a forum for exchanging non-competitive information.
* According to the CWA, membership of the group is available to "all companies in the operation of commercial car washing in the UK as well as any company involved in the supply or manufacture of commercial car wash equipment".
* Admission to membership is at the discretion of the Executive Committee, which is working on a Members’ Code of Practice.
* Members include WashTec, Ryko, Wilcomatic, Total, Lakeside Group, Snax 24, Alfred Jones, Mr Clean, Clean Car Co, IMO, Spanjer Chemicals and MRH (GB) Ltd.
* The car wash industry provides an important service that consumers value and, according to Datamonitor, a contribution worth in excess of £800m to the UK economy.
* The CWA points out that washing a car manually at home uses much more water than washing it in an automatic car wash - Germany is one of the countries where it is illegal to wash a car at home.
* Support at Westminster includes Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, who earlier this year tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) on the group’s behalf regarding the issue of unregulated car wash sites.
* Forecourt Trader has backed the group since it started, see [http://www.forecourttrader.co.uk] for more details.
* Information on how to join the CWA can be found on its website at [http://www.carwashassociation.co.uk.Alternatively], email Jenny Brown at the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) at firstname.lastname@example.org.