There was some skepticism in the ranks when it became known that the International Carwash Association’s The Car Wash Show for 2016 was destined for Nashville, TN.It had been 17 years since the car wash community last gathered in Music City USA for its premier annual event. While that show, held at the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, drew a respectable 8,405 attendees, it set no records.

Show attendance at Las Vegas venues was slowly growing following the worst years of 2010 and 2011 (the Chicago-based 2014 show recorded a slight dip in visitor numbers). Why mess with a winning formula? Nashville proved the skeptics’ concerns unfounded. With close to 8,000 registrants, this was the biggest show in 10 years, topping the attendance recorded at last year’s event in Las Vegas by 16 percent.

Paul Fazio, CEO of SONNY’S The CarWash Factory, declared the first two days of the show “outrageous,” adding that he had never seen such activity in all his years in the business. It is possible that the inclusion of the Automotive Oil Change Association’s iFlex on the exhibit floor had some impact on the attendance numbers, but that does not explain the spike in interest that was also evident in the car wash seminars, which were exceptionally well attended.

Exhibitors did not disappoint. Innovations abounded on the show floor. Mark VII, for example, introduced, among other items, LightRails — LED-lit guide rails that simulate an airport runway for in-bay automatics. Sonny’s had a slew of new items on display, including new wash material, a reversing top brush, and a “duckbill” dryer. Ryko Solution not only introduced new Ryko, MacNeil, and Clean Touch branded products, it also unveiled a new name. Ryko Solutions will henceforth be known as National Carwash Solutions or NCS. Newcomers to the show floor included iClean DogWash from the Netherlands and Tammermatic wash systems from Finland.

From the organizers’ side there were also new developments. The ICA revealed a new strategic plan. The plan is comprised of the association’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and values and beliefs. Under strategic goals, the association lists events, association partnerships, advocacy, research, and resource management.

In this regard, the association noted that vehicle technologies were posing increasingly more challenges and announced that it had contracted with a California company to investigate the establishment of a new alliance with automobile manufacturers.

This announcement follows hot on the heels of an initiative launched by a group of car wash industry vendors at the end of February, prior to the start of the Southwest Car Wash Association Show in Arlington, TX, with the purpose, among others, of forming an organization to pursue such an alliance. This yet to be named, yet to be formally constituted organization is tasked with realizing vendors’ long-sought closer liaison with the automobile manufacturers.

Regardless of how it is accomplished, it is of utmost importance that the car wash industry work closely with automakers. Technologies that make cars safer on the road do not necessarily make them safer in the car wash. Automated collision avoidance systems are of particular concern. Panelists at one seminar in Nashville painted a scenario where a high-tech car’s sensors could interpret the car ahead on the conveyor or an approaching wrap as a collision in the making and cause the brakes to be applied. One need hardly say more.