There is no shortage of blogs that promise to tell the real truth about ceramic car coatings. If you happen to be a detail shop operator, you know the truth. Ceramic coating can be a cash cow.
It’s a high-end, value-added service with a price point equivalent to a paint job, and gross net is around 50 percent.
Detailers are making the most of this opportunity by reaching out to educate consumers about car care and, hopefully, influence their behavior. Detailers accomplish this by emphasizing what a ceramic car coating can do as well as what it cannot do.
For example, ceramic is super-hydrophobic and anti-stick. It lasts for a number of years. The paint always has a just-waxed look. It protects against UV, oxidation, and stains.
Conversely, ceramic keeps paint looking cleaner for longer but it does not eliminate the need to wash a car. Ceramic imparts a very hard surface, but it is not immune to swirl marks from washing. Lastly, it holds up for years but not forever.
Conveying these selling points and product knowledge to consumers in an effective manner is crucial to getting them to shell out $1,000 or more for a transparent car coating.
In the commercial car wash, the dynamic is different.
According to the folks at Zep Vehicle Care, the industry is currently using ceramic “infused” products to provide surface leveling and a higher level of hydrophobicity.
In terms of application, pundits suggest a synergistic effect can be achieved by layering ceramic with other value-added products such as rain repellent, clear-coat, and hot wax.
Arguably, this approach is supportive of more revenue and profit, but does it actually provide additional benefit to the customer?
For example, one aspect of hydrophobicity is the contact angle with water that a product imparts on a surface — the greater the contact angle, the greater the water-hating effect. However, you cannot add up contact angles of different products as a result of combining them in a single application.
For example, if product A imparts a contact angle of 90 and product B 100, the result of layering the two products would be a contact angle of 100 not 190. In other words, layering would not produce a synergistic hydrophobic effect.
Likewise, combining and layering of such products, all of which have roughly the same wear rate, would not increase the longevity of the hydrophobic effect.
This is not to say ceramic-infused car wash products don’t work well. To the contrary, they work quite well — in fact, maybe too well.
As I’ve written about before, DIY ceramic spray-and-wipe and the online products available at one of our local car washes have been a panacea for me.
For example, I no longer hand wax the car and it only needs to be washed half as often for the simple reason these products keep the car cleaner, shinier, longer.
However, it seems detailers, at least in my area, are doing a better job of getting the word out on ceramic coatings than most of the car wash operators are.
For example, there are six conveyors in my area and only one has ceramic online. And the price is steep. Up-sell is $6 and monthly unlimited is $50 or $600 a year, which is equivalent to the low-end price for a true ceramic coating with a two- or three-year warranty.
In the final analysis, ceramic-infused products work so well their impact on the industry will probably eclipse that of Rain-X online when it was introduced in 2005.
The reason for this is a ceramic-infused coating produces more profound effects than either rain repellent or hot wax. The difference can be clearly seen and felt.
Any express, full-service, or in-bay operator should consider adding this product to their line up.
Besides the revenue and profit potential is the fact that ceramic-infused coating is now the best surface protection that the car wash industry has to offer motorists.
Bob Roman is president of RJR Enterprises — Consulting Services (www.carwashplan.com). You can reach Bob via e-mail at email@example.com