The automotive detailing industry is a vibrant and dynamic community of hard-working detailing technicians and business owners, supported by manufacturers and distributors of the chemicals and equipment needed to conduct the work, complemented by a handful of training institutions and individual instructors.

A small percentage of operators within most trades and professions see the need for its members to get together in support of one another.

A common vehicle of that effort is the “trade association.” The detailing industry has seen several attempts in the last 30 or so years to form such an association.

Our latest effort, The International Detailing Association (IDA), is, by far, the most successful of those attempts. With almost 2,000 members in some 70 countries, 12 international chapters, and 65 supplier members — including many of the “big hitters” in the industry — the IDA is a thriving organization that is destined to grow and improve for many years into the future.

In this month’s column, I’m going to dive into the rich history of the IDA, starting with a brief overview of how a trade association works, and then a sketch of the early detailing association efforts.


A trade association is an organization founded by businesses that operate in a specific industry with the express purpose of supporting members of that industry. A not-for-profit association funds itself through the collection of dues from members who join. A properly run trade association will initially establish its legitimacy through the submission of “Articles of Incorporation” that are recorded with the government of a state (chosen by convenience). It will be guided by a volunteer board of directors that is selected from and voted in by the membership.

The board of directors then writes up a set of bylaws, which are rules and regulations that guide all aspects of the operation of the association. The board may also establish committees — also made up of industry volunteers — that are tasked with activities like exploring the needs and desires of the association members and making recommendations to the board for activities and programs that address those needs.

The board may also contract the services of an association management company that is paid to handle all the administrative needs of the association. These include collection, management, and paying of all association expenses; recruitment and marketing of new members; maintaining all membership records; handling all legal and risk management issues; and lobbying government and legislative bodies, as well as instituting and maintaining the member benefit programs that are formulated by the board and its committees.

Typically, a trade association initially forms because of the vision and passion of a few individuals within the industry. A trade association succeeds as those individuals share their vision, attracting more like-minded individuals within the industry. Sheryle Hazard, CAE, shared the following quote with early IDA board members, and I believe it sums up the true meaning of a trade association:

“Every person owes a part of his or her time and money to the business or industry in which he or she is engaged. No person has a moral right to withhold support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his or her sphere.” President Teddy Roosevelt – 1908 (edited to remove gender bias).


There have been at least four major attempts to form a detailing trade organization that I am aware of. In order to fully understand the reason that the IDA formed and continues to be successful, it is important to review how these early groups came about and why they no longer exist. (Please note, if I have neglected to mention regional efforts that occurred in the last 30 years, it is simply because I am ignorant of these. I welcome information on any other detailing industry groups from across the years.)

In the early 1990s, IDA Hall of Fame inductee Ed Terwilliger, CD-SV, RT banded together a group of Southern California detailers, many of whom had attended his high school classes in automotive detailing, to form the Southern California Professional Detailing Association (SCPDA). This was definitely a localized group, attracting members from mostly the Orange County and Los Angeles areas.

In its heyday, several dozen SCPDA members at a time would meet once a month for dinner at a Long Beach restaurant, where they would listen to a presentation from an industry leader or supplier. The SCPDA was admittedly more of an informal group, but no less important in its contributions, as some of the members of this early group continue to lead the detailing industry today.

Also, in 1990, IDA Hall of Fame inductee R. L. “Bud” Abraham formed the Professional Detailing Association (PDA), which was more of a national organization spawned from Bud’s heavy involvement in the International Carwash Association. As such, many of the members of the PDA were car wash owners who happened to offer detailing services at their facilities. Nonetheless, there was a cadre of successful detail shop operators, as well as detail suppliers, that supported this association, whose activities and gatherings were centered at the conventions of the various car wash associations around the country.

In the early 2000s, the Professional Detailing Technician’s Association (PDTA) developed a following of strictly detailing operators and technicians, and this national group had a strong presence at the first few installments of the Mobile Tech Expo in Orlando, FL. In the mid-2000s, the National Association of Professional Detailing and Reconditioning was formed, and, for a couple of years, provided well-attended educational sessions at MTE as well as the International Carwash Association’s annual convention.

All of these efforts at creating a trade association for detailers had the commonality of well-intended individuals who understood the importance of detailers banding together to support their industry. The common theme as to why these associations did not last seems to be, in my humble analysis, due to problems in management.

The SCPDA disbanded when Ed needed to move on from a leadership role but no one would take the reins. The PDA was subsumed under ICA but was not assigned a leadership team to maintain the group and it eventually fizzled out. The PDTA just sort of faded away, again due to waning interest in managing the group. The leadership of the NAPDR was self-appointed — a critical mistake — and quickly vanished, even though, for a period of time, dues were still collected.

Membership participation in each of the early groups followed the classic “bell-shaped curve”, with a very few people starting up the organization, followed by a period of growth of membership which sometimes reached an impressive peak of as many as 500 participants, but ultimately slowly falling off due to lack of management and loss of interest.

What all of these organizations shared was a few visionaries who understood the importance of gathering the community of automotive detailing. And, it is important to note that when I point to “lack of management” as a cause of their failure, this is in no way intended as a criticism of those individuals, many of whom are still heavily involved in supporting our industry today. It takes a lot to run a trade association, and a structure must be in place when early pioneers can no longer manage it.


As Keith Duplessie, CD-SV, RT, likes to point out, “it all started at the Denny’s next to the Orlando Convention Center,” where a group of like-minded individuals who were attending the ICA’s 2008 Car Care World Expo met for a meal. Led by Bud Abraham, the discussion turned to the need for a trade association for the detailing industry.

An exploratory committee was formed, and Bud reached out to big hitters in the industry, including several detailing chemical and equipment manufacturers, as well as detailing operators (like myself) that he knew would support such an effort. The call for members to join started in April of 2008. These early members funded the formation of the IDA. (I still have my “Certificate of Membership” from August of 2008!).

As membership grew, a nominating committee was formed to produce a “slate of officers” that would become the first board of directors of the IDA. We were very fortunate to have the leadership and management efforts of Bud at this time, because he had served for many years on the boards of directors of both the ICA and the Western Carwash Association (WCA), which were both thriving institutions. As such, he knew how trade associations were supposed to be formed and run, and Bud’s early efforts in 2008 ensured that the IDA would start out on all the correct legal and procedural foundations.

The first board of directors was voted in by the membership in late 2008. They had their first face-to-face meeting in January 2009 in Clearwater, FL after the Mobile Tech Expo of that year. This all-day meeting included activities like reviewing and approving a set of bylaws, establishing committees, and beginning the work of setting goals for the organization. Bud Abraham, along with his daughter Marnie Joseph, were officially appointed as our first management team, and we were off and running!


Well, there’s a lot to talk about, apparently, so I’ll divvy up the scoop into at least two installments.

In the second installment of this “History of the IDA”, we will explore how the association began to provide value to the industry, share the stories surrounding the development of the IDA’s most successful member benefits, and how it grew into a truly international organization. Finally, we will discuss the future of the IDA, with a sneak peak into the goals and ideas that came out of this year’s annual meeting of the IDA board of directors.


Prentice St. Clair is an International Detailing Association Recognized Trainer and Certified Detailer. As the president of Detail in Progress Inc., he has been providing training and consulting to car washes and detail shops since 1999. He is available at (619) 701-1100 or