When it comes to making a wash profitable you can pinch every penny and look to cut costs, or you can invest in equipment and materials to ensure customers drive off the lot satisfied and with a clean car. The owners of Diamond Express Car Wash have chosen the latter.
Owner Neil Jain is dedicated to getting cars clean, and firmly believes that his innovative, cut-no-corners approach to business sets his wash apart from the competition. “Once we get a customer to come into our wash one time we will never lose them,” he says. “Most people are so happy to come to our wash that they are actually thanking me.”
The engineer and former executive vice president of a billion dollar apparel company started his second career as a car washer in 1999 and has been wowing customers for 15 years with his unique take on the business. His commitment to consistent quality has led the inventor to try new processes in his tunnels — methods that those raised in the car wash business might consider daring or downright unnecessary, but the results speak for themselves.
For example, Diamond Express uses both low- and high-pH chemicals delivered via high pressure to clean wheels, a process that Neil has yet to see at any other wash. The dual process not only works, it helped put Neil’s early full-serve locations on the map, as he built his reputation as the place to go for sparkling wheels.
“We spend 40 cents per car on chemicals just for the wheels,” Neil says. “I don’t worry about the chemical costs I worry about customer satisfaction. If they come back we are going to make a lot of money. If no one comes back we aren’t going to make any money and then we can worry about the cost of the chemicals.”
In addition to the cost of the innovative approach to wheel cleaning, soap is applied six times in the express tunnel to ensure that every speck of dirt is removed from the vehicle. After all the scrubbing is done each and every vehicle is rinsed three times, and another of Jains’ hallmark processes is performed.
Prior to the third rinse cycle, cars travel under a blower to clear any standing water from the vehicle to ensure that the spot-free final rinse is not contaminated with wash water. It is an extra step that might seem like overkill to an operator concerned with keeping costs in line, but it guarantees that all cars that exit the tunnel are water-spot free.
“He really is the genius behind this,” Neil’s daughter and manager of the Cherry Hill location Candice Jain says of her father. “The way that he lined up the equipment in the tunnel is different than any other wash I have seen. He really understands how to get the perfectly clean car. Our cars are really amazing even at the $5 level.”
Competition in the Cherry Hill market is fierce. With 10 tunnels situated in a four-mile radius it is difficult for any wash to truly shine, but Diamond Express has carved out the biggest portion of the market by catering to its customers’ demands and providing a consistent, well-priced product.
The Morton location is also situated in a highly-competitive market, with half a dozen washes operating within five miles. Despite the high-level of competition, the site, which is managed by Neil’s son Christopher, is highly profitable and washes well over 100,000 vehicles per year.
“We are in the top five percent of car washes in Pennsylvania in profitability and customer satisfaction,” Neil says. “We concentrate on quality and make sure that everything we do is right in the tunnel. We don’t cheat our customers. Our customer satisfaction is 99.9 percent.”
Diamond Express built its loyal customer base through quality performance and word-of-mouth. The two sites do no marketing or promotions, and rarely ever have, preferring to let the end result speak for itself.
Although the wash does nothing in the way of marketing, its modern website offers a behind-the-scenes look at the wash and its equipment. All the tunnel equipment is featured in its own section of the website, with high-resolution photos and accompanying text detailing its specific role and benefits. This kind of transparency is a rarity in the world of car washing — it allows customers a glimpse of the magic going on in the tunnel and further solidifies the sites as the most modern, well-equipped businesses in their market area.
Diamond Express is currently under contract for a third location in Jamison, PA, and should be taking over the site at the end of February or the beginning of March. The profitable location is a rarity for the Jains, they usually purchase rundown facilities and complete near-total rebuilds to bring the site up to their standards of quality. The Jamison site however is a highly-successful site with a large market share that produces a final product that rivals Diamond Express’ other two locations.
Candice and her husband will be relocating to the Jamison area as she will be taking over the management duties for the latest acquisition. The day-to-day operations of the Cherry Hill location will be handled by a manager with Neil ensuring product quality doesn’t suffer in his daughter’s absence.
“The Jamison location will be our last one,” Candice says. “Three washes is a number we are comfortable with. We don’t think bigger is better. Smaller is better. This allows us to give more attention to the company and hopefully be more successful in the future.
Jamison is a small community surrounded by larger townships in Bucks County, PA. The express exterior draws loyal customers from the neighboring towns, and washes over 100,000 vehicles each year despite being located in a sparsely populated area. The base price for an express wash at the location is $8, which is significantly more than the $5 (Cherry Hill) and $6 (Morton) entry-level price point for the Jains’ other sites. The high base wash pricing helps boost the average per car over the $11 mark, a major factor in the Jains’ decision to purchase the wash.
After a decade and a half in the car wash business the Jains are not resting on their laurels. Instead they continue to strive to produce the cleanest car possible and tinker with their innovative approach to washing cars, with an eye on the final product, not the costs associated to produce it. “We try to give the customer the best intrinsic value that they can’t get anywhere else,” Neil says.