It has taken some time, more than 15 years, but finally the International Carwash Association (ICA) and the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) have struck an accord. Starting next year in Nashville, the associations will combine their conventions and tradeshows: the ICA’s The Car Wash Show and the AOCA’s iFLEX.

The associations prefer the word “co-locate,” which implies, one assumes, that fast-lube vendors will be located in a separate designated area on the tradeshow floor (not unlike the fast-lube pavilions that could be found at Car Care World Expo), and that fast-lube operators will be offered an industry-specific educational track alongside the car wash seminars (as they were for several years at ICA conventions starting in 1999).

In the press release announcing the co-location, AOCA president Len Minco correctly points out that “this is an opportunity that has been openly discussed for many years.” In June 2001, in this space, we lamented the fact that then-recent talks between the two associations to combine their expos had fizzled.

From a purely practical point of view, this was a disappointment. Between March and June of that year, there were no fewer than eight car care industry events featuring exhibits — a good reason to suspect some duplication and to suggest a need for consolidation. While the reservations that may have led to the breakdown in discussions could be understood, we suggested as new inspiration the decision in April of that year by the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) to combine their shows starting in 2002. The combined show endures to this day.

ICA and AOCA should expect similar longevity. Their relationship mirrors that of the PEI and NACS in several ways: They cover fields that complement rather than duplicate and that enhance rather than replace. Also, the parties do not bring equal numbers to the “partnership.” In both instances, one organization is appreciably smaller than the other, a reality that understandably creates fears of domination. PEI and NACS have shown that such fears do not necessarily bear out. Besides, apart from the convention and tradeshow, the two associations will continue their entirely separate existence, each engaging in its own education and training activities, data gathering, research, member services, and advocacy.

One question does arise, though: Can the tradeshow credibly remain known as The Car Wash Show? According to the AOCA’s press release, fast-lube suppliers will be “integrated into The Car Wash Show exhibition hall.”

In years past, the ICA has not been shy about changing the name of its premier event. From the cumbersome “International Carwash Association Car Washing and Detailing Convention & Exposition,” which expired, coincidentally in Nashville, in 1999 — “Detailing” having been added to the title just three years previously — to the grandiloquent “Car Care World Expo,” which purported to reflect more diverse services and worldwide relevance, to “The Car Wash Show,” which sounded a retreat from diversity and appealed to the car wash purist. And now we are back to the diverse.

So, what’s in a name? Might it be a reflection of the nature of its bearer? If that is so, a return to the name “Car Care Expo” may be appropriate. It has served well in the recent past. The term “car care” also has a longer history: In 1961, Lube King, then America’s newest auto service, claimed to “complete the marriage between the fast car wash and gasoline service, giving complete car care to today’s busy motorist.”