This year’s Mobile Tech Expo and Detailer’s Forum (MTE) took place on January 15-17 on the grounds of the Caribe Royale All-Suites Hotel and Convention Center in Orlando, FL. This was the 14th annual MTE, which is targeted toward automotive reconditioning businesses and technicians who offer services such as automotive detailing, paintless dent removal, auto body minor paint repair, windshield repair, interior surface repair, and vehicle accessories.

The IDA’s Annual Reception and Business Meeting was
well attended by both
members and non-members.

The event title still contains the word “mobile” because in the early years it catered mostly to mobile operators. Nonetheless, many of the exhibitors and educational sessions apply to both mobile and fixed operations.

This year the International Detailing Association (IDA) was clearly among the most prominent organizations representing the detailing industry. The IDA took the lead in providing education, certification testing, awards, and networking opportunities.


The crowning event for the IDA at this year’s MTE was the first ever administration of the “Skills Validation” portion of the IDA’s Detailing Certification Program. The first phase of the certification has been available since August of 2011, with 208 detailing technicians having passed the exams to date. Those who pass the bank of 10 pencil-and-paper (or online) knowledge tests are awarded the title of IDA Certified Detailer (or IDA-CD).

The IDA-CD designation is itself important because it shows that the technician has a well-rounded knowledge of the technical aspects of detailing. The Skills Validation phase of the Certification Program, on the other hand, allows the technician to actually demonstrate that knowledge by performing or describing a prescribed set of standard detailing skills to an IDA authorized proctor or recognized trainer. This is what happened for the first time in Florida at MTE.

Fourteen attendees achieved the IDA-SV designation: Gina Budhai, Kyle Clark, Keith Duplessie, Jim Goguen, Tim Jones, Justin Labato, Tom Palancia, Scott Perkin, Bob Phillips, Mike Poloskey, Prentice St. Clair, Rob Schruefer, Greg Swett, and Paul Veins. Since this was a first-time run-through of the SV program, many IDA board members and certification committee members were among this first batch.

With this first experience under their belts, the certification committee will spend time this year improving the SV testing process and it is likely to be made available at least by next year’s MTE, if not sooner.

Stay close to for more information.


There was plenty of education available for detailers at this year’s MTE. The IDA provided four sessions. Rob Schruefer, IDA’s current president, gave a talk on how to take your business to the next level. Rob covered several issues related to moving from the “stuck” phase of a business to a growing phase that allows you to work “on your business” instead of “in your business.”

In another session, protective coating options were discussed and compared. The panel offered advice on selling, application, capability, and warranty issues with old stand-by waxes and sealants as well as newer semi-permanent coatings.

Keith Duplessie and this author provided valuable information to business owners about administrative issues such as properly insuring your business and maintaining compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. The talk included discussion of employment law, worker’s compensation, OSHA compliance, health insurance, and taxes.

I kicked off the education at 7:30 am on Thursday, January 15th with a talk on interior cleaning tips, tricks, and how-to processes. To my amazement, the 50-seat room was packed to the back walls and out into the hall with at least 80 people — awake and attentive at 7:30 am. Just shows that there is no lack of interest in detailing education.

There were plenty of other educational sessions provided by multiple experts in the detailing field. Technical topics included paint correction, multiple sessions focusing on individual types of polisher technologies — new and traditional — and carpet and upholstery stain removal. Business topics included how to utilize social media, creating business success, media-based marketing, and mobile invoicing software.

A number of seminars were presented on related business opportunities like paintless dent removal, paint spot-blending, windshield repair, wheel repair, and interior surface repair. Some of these seminars were intended to be introductions into additional services available to the detailing operator. Others were introducing specific new techniques and technology to those already offering such services.

This last thought brings up an important aspect of attendance at MTE. That is, it allows you the opportunity to explore the possibilities and requirements to add new profit centers to your existing detailing operation. The vendors on the trade show floor can show and even demonstrate the available technology, and the educational sessions can help you understand the in’s and out’s of adding a new line of servic

The first graduating class of IDA
“Skills Validated” Certified Detailers.


One of the primary benefits to anyone attending MTE is the large number of opportunities to network with others in the industry. Operators have a chance to chat with fellow operators, vendors of industry equipment and chemicals, and leaders in the detailing industry. The tradeshow floor was a-buzz with activity, as well as the hallways outside the educational sessions.

The IDA board of directors once again manned a booth for the show, during which five new members were signed up. This was a great opportunity for IDA members and potential members to discuss hot topics about the detailing industry with the leaders of the organization. It was also a chance for potential members to learn about the IDA. The booth was far more active this year than last.

Another networking opportunity provided by the IDA was its Annual Business Meeting and Reception, which is always open to members as well as non-members. Compared to last year, there were easily twice as many attendees at this function, which included free food (sponsored by, RAGGTOPP, RUPES, Simoniz USA, and Stinger Chemical Company), and a no-host bar.

The IDA’s annual State of the Detailing Industry speech was given by Keith Duplessie, followed by the presentation of the annual IDA awards. It was particularly encouraging to learn from IDA executive director Sheryl Hazard that 8,500 votes were received from the detailing community at large for these awards, which were as follows:
2015 Mobile Detailer of the Year: Joe Fernandez of Superior Shine Auto Detailing of Los Angeles, CA
2015 Detail Shop of the Year: Custom Car Care Wagga in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
2015 Supplier of the Year: Kevin Brown of in California
2015 Detailer of the Year: Cougar Elfervig of Luxe Auto Spa in Murray, UT
2015 IDA Leadership Award: Rob Schruefer of On the Spot Mobile Detailing of Columbia, MD
2015 IDA Outstanding Service Award: Prentice St. Clair of Detail in Progress Inc. of San Diego, CA
Past IDA Presidents Award: Greg Swett of Classic Appreciation in Rochester, MI

And, in a particularly touching presentation, Bob Phillips of P&S Sales in Hayward, CA accepted The IDA Lifetime Achievement Award that was bestowed upon his father and founder of P&S Sales, Bill Phillips, who passed just last year.


I realize that not everyone can travel to Florida for this event. But please be aware that the IDA is increasingly becoming involved with other regional events. The best way to stay informed about this is to visit the IDA website ( often and to make sure that you are subscribed to the IDA e-mail newsletter.

For example, we had a presence at the Southwest Car Wash Association’s annual Convention and Expo that took place in Arlington, TX February 22-24. Then there’s the The Car Wash Show in Las Vegas April 23-25, put on by the International Carwash Association — IDA is likely to be there in some capacity, but plans are not finalized. We will also likely have a large presence at this year’s SEMA Show coming up November 3-6 in Las Vegas. Plus there are a number of regional car wash conventions that we are looking at partnering with to provide detail education and networking opportunities.


Please plan to be at next year’s Mobile Tech Expo. I can virtually personally guarantee that it will be worth the investment. You are likely to see another large offering of seminars and demonstrations just for detailers. You are also likely to see the expo well attended by fellow detailers from around the country, especially as the IDA increases its presence and educational offerings. Remember this: the more of us that show up, the bigger the show will get over the years.

Prentice St. Clair is president of Detail in Progress, a San Diego-based automotive reconditioning consulting firm. To contact him, e-mail or call (619) 701-1100.