It caused sudden pangs of nostalgia. A recent poll commissioned by Supersonic Car Wash in Utah sought to determine if Utah car owners still had that “loving feeling” for their cars. The poll was part of the 11-location chain’s celebration of its 60th anniversary. Now part of the International Car Wash Group, Supersonic has been operating in the Salt Lake City area since 1959.
News of this poll took me back roughly 16 years, to the launch in 2003 of the International Carwash Association’s public relations campaign under the title “Car Love.” Operators had been clamoring for a national public outreach by the industry for years, and this was the ICA’s response to their pleas. The goal of the campaign was to turn do-it-yourselfers into professional wash customers, while increasing the frequency of visits among current customers — to get people to not only feel car love, but to practice it.
The campaign had three key messages:
• Professional car washes help protect your investment
• Professional car washes are better than home washes for the environment
• Professional car washes are beneficial for individuals
To generate attention, the campaign ran cutesy “pop quizzes.” One example: What embarrasses Americans most about their dirty cars? Answer: trash (66 percent of respondents).
By all accounts, Utah residents continue to “feel” car love. Two thirds of Utah cars will be happy to learn that they still engender that “loving feeling” in their owners. So say the results of the Supersonic poll. Less cause for joy, though, is the finding that only 50 percent of owners spend the same amount of time and effort taking care of their cars as they did 10 or 15 years ago; 27 percent actually spend less time. And the reasons are all too familiar: time constraints and too many “other distractions.”
These excuses do not deter Supersonic, who is urging Utah motorists to “renew their vows” with their vehicles this summer. As encouragement, the chain is running a “Super-Size the Love” Sweepstakes July 1 – August 18 at all its locations, offering daily prizes and entry into weekly prize drawings.
If only we can be assured that the love will be reciprocated. The modern car is more than a mode of conveyance; it’s well on its way to becoming a tattletale. Among other things, it has become a sponge sucking up data — yours and the car’s — at an astonishing rate. Recent reporting shows how modern cars are collecting information, for example, on when, by which route, and to which destination they have been driven. They even collect details on the what-and-when of the music car occupants listen to. Farfetched as it might seem, they record the driver’s weight.
None of the above has anything to do with the car’s condition or performance (though that data is also collected). It is purely consumer data intended to be monetized, something brands like Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, and Jaguar Land Rover already do, according to a study by autolist.com. The same study cites a KPMG report that 80 percent of auto industry executive see data as a primary source of income in the future.
It is true that consumers, through exposure to the Internet and social media, have become more comfortable with sharing their personal data. But that requires a pact: We get a free service; you get our data. No such implied deal exists with regard to the automobile.
My car the fink. That’s what’s not to love.