Under Pressure: Will America’s Decline in Driving Affect the Car Wash Industry?

Americans have long had a love affair with automobiles and driving, and the vehicle and car care industries have reaped the benefits. But in an atmosphere of recession and changing markets, more Americans are choosing to drive less, and this can affect how many trips through the car wash they’re taking and what sort of car wash supplies they’re purchasing. Studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that, after peaking in 2004, the amount of driving Americans do per year has been in decline. It’s clear that many drivers are feeling pressure at the gas pump.

While the recession can account for some of the changes in driving habits, some consumers are changing the way they think about personal transportation altogether. Younger Americans seem more reluctant to purchase vehicles, and urbanization contributes to consumers choosing public transportation, or even telecommuting, over a personal commuter vehicle. However, the outlook isn’t completely bleak for the automobile industry. It could be that, as the economy recovers, sales will go up, and with them, the demand for car care.

Several automotive manufacturers have announced record sales for 2013, including Honda, BMW, Toyota, and Nissan. As always, the car wash industry can maintain its profitability, along with automakers. Because customer loyalty starts early, and becomes more ingrained over time, targeting the 18 to 34 year old demographic is crucial to building your car wash business. Educating customers on the necessity of car washes to ensure the long life and good maintenance of their valuable automobiles will have a large impact on the future of the car wash industry as a whole. Future economic recovery is almost sure to change the driving habits of young adults.

Economic conditions and customer attitudes can be cyclical and change over time. Clever marketing aimed at younger drivers and people who spend a lot of time in their cars for work, or because of a lifestyle involving outdoor travel or family activities, can keep customers coming in, and your wash counts high.

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