Consumers spend billions of dollars a year on washing and waxing their own cars.
Exterior and interior care of vehicles include products that help clean while exerting shine and protection on vehicle surfaces such as vinyl, paint, rubber, carpet, leather, glass, and chrome.
Wax and cleaning products alone account for 80 percent of the car care products market anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 2.6 percent to $3 billion by 2027.
Moreover, there is another $1 billion or so that car wash operators spend on soaps and waxes to clean, shine, and protect their customers’ cars.
Considering the various multiples of applications per container, that’s a lot of washing and waxing.
However, according to pundits, wax is becoming obsolete. Product manufacturers say the younger generation recognizes the value of protecting their cars but they want fast, easy, and inexpensive products.
For example, the split between these consumers and how a purist might wash and wax a car is about 70/30. Consequently, makers have responded with spray-on ceramic hybrid products that contain silicone dioxide and/or titanium dioxide.
These products require little in the way of instruction or elbow grease, are powderless, produce better results, and last considerably longer than conventional waxes.
Ceramic is also making its way through the commercial car wash industry. According the latest Auto Laundry News surveys, 44 percent of conveyor operators offer ceramic online and 87 percent of detailers offer ceramic coating.
The most recent car care innovation for the mass market is graphene coatings. Graphene is a carbon-based nanomaterial that is easy to apply, produces a hard surface with high water contact angle, has anti-static properties, and offers superior durability. Like ceramic infused car wash products, graphene can be applied through an arch in a wash bay.
In my market, online ceramic is a $5 up-sell in a market where the retail price for an exterior car wash is between $10 and $25. Our local auto parts store sells both graphene-infused tire shine and graphene spray wax starting at $19.99.
Graphene coatings are also available at some detail shops. One detailer has prices starting at $1,500 for a graphene coating 5 + years. Whereas the typical starting price for professional ceramic coating is $400 to $500. “Starting” because the professional coatings are a two-to-three-day process that require a significant amount of labor for prep work and paint correction and curing time.
By comparison, the typical price for an express hand wax is now between $60 and $100, the average is $72.
Although the online products applied in a commercial wash bay may have a cost and time advantage, they are not on par with those requiring manual labor.
For example, the purpose of waxing is to remove fine scratches and reduce surface roughness which prevents stuff from sticking to the paint surface.
This requires long durations of applying force and iterative adjustments conducted manually by hand waxing or machine buffing to achieve acceptable quality.
Conversely, online products such as ceramic and graphene impart characteristics to enhance the surface short-term.
However, it’s like drag racing. There is no substitute for cubic inches. Likewise, there is no substitute for the practice of rubbing on paint to make it look better.