The 16th annual Mobile Tech Auto Recon Expo (MTE) took place January 19-21 in Orlando, FL. It was held at the DoubleTree Universal Hotel and Convention Center. This convention caters to the mobile (and fixed) automotive reconditioning industry, including detailing, paint, paintless dent removal, interior surface repair, and accessories.

You may remember from previous years’ “MTE wrap-ups” that the International Detailing Association (IDA) has had an increasingly larger presence at this show, and this year is no exception. The partnership between MTE and IDA is stronger than ever — thanks in part to the efforts of the many IDA volunteers and sponsors, as well as the generosity of MTE producer Kevin Halewood, who you may know also as the publisher of Detailer’s Digest. The IDA provided two full days of educational seminars, multiple certification offerings, the annual detailer’s reception and awards ceremony, and a large booth on the tradeshow floor.

For those who couldn’t make it, I offer this summary of the convention events, with an obvious bias toward the detailing side.


The IDA was in possession of one of the convention hall seminar rooms again this year for two full days.

During MTE’s traditional “Education Day” on Thursday, the IDA sponsored no less than nine, one-hour seminars. Topics included Motorcycle Detailing, Expanding your Detail Business Services, Interior Protection Packages and Add-ons, Headlight Restoration, Learn from Our Mistakes, Global Detail Trends, Expanding your Business by Adding Marine and RV Detailing, Mold & Mildew Mitigation in Marine Applications, Becoming the “Expert” in Your Hometown, and Taking Your Business to the Next Level.

Presenters included detailing industry leaders — some names that you are familiar with and others that you will soon become familiar with — such as Todd Helme, Eric Majewicz, Prentice St. Clair, Jason Rose, Vincent Macri, Tom Palancia, Jeremy Harding, Parker Richards, Mike Phillips, and Rob Schruefer.

It was exciting to see that most of these presentations were attended by standing-room-only crowds of 50 to 80 detailers (no kidding, I counted). I remember just a few years ago we were happy to have 10 people in the room at any given time!

On Friday afternoon, a panel of experts was assembled to lead the room in 15-minute discussions of eight pertinent topics, including branding; customer retention; social media and online marketing; business expansion; efficiency; safety and compliance; and lighting. The panel, moderated by Prentice St. Clair, consisted of industry notables like Renny Doyle, Brian Guy, Rod Paluzi, Mike Phillips, Shawn Rowan, Jason Rose, and Rob Schruefer.

In addition to the IDA’s sponsored seminars, MTE’s traditional educational line-up offered many additional detailing and business-related topics.

One of the benefits of attendance at these various educational events for current IDA Certified Detailers is that doing so allows credit towards the eight hours of continuing education that is necessary every two years to maintain certification.


On Friday morning, the IDA hosted a “Certification-in-a-Day” event taught by Prentice St. Clair. These events include a comprehensive seminar that presents all of the information necessary to pass the IDA Certified Detailer exams, after which, all 10 exams are administered and graded on-site, yielding a virtually guaranteed pass. Five detailers had pre-registered but on-site demand was intense and 10 additional attendees showed up at the door. So, a total of 15 detailers were awarded the designation of IDA Certified Detailer that morning.

The second phase of the IDA Certification Program, called “Skills Validation” (CD-SV), requires the Certified Detailer to actually demonstrate detailing proficiency in four areas — Prep Wash, Interior Detailing, Vehicle Paint, and Final Detailing. This is an intensive testing situation that requires at least two hours with an IDA Recognized Trainer. The IDA offered this testing at MTE on Saturday, January 21. Although the event was full with 16 Certified Detailers pre-registered, Recognized Trainer Chair Bob Phillips led a team of eight IDA CD-SV volunteers to push through an additional eight walk-in candidates because of demand at the show. So, a total of 24 Certified Detailers received their CD-SV designation at this year’s MTE.

It is exciting to see the complete turnaround in attitude about the IDA Certification program. It was just a short time ago that many detailers aired a healthy skepticism about the benefit of being certified. Now we see many detailers clamoring for it and asking how soon they can obtain full certification.


The Annual Business Meeting and Detailer’s Reception took place in our dedicated seminar room, as usual. Free food, thanks to industry sponsors, was available as well as a no-host bar. This event, which lasts about two hours, involves much pomp-and-circumstance and is, I would venture to say, the most formal proceeding of our entire industry. It is impressive to see so many industry leaders and well-known professional detailers in the room at one time.

Five years ago, this event attracted 19 people. Last year, the room was packed to standing-room-only with over 100 attendees. This year, the larger room was packed with at least 135 attendees.

The meeting was called to order by 2016 IDA President Rob Schruefer, and began with a presentation of a Certificate of Appreciation to Kevin Halewood and daughter Kara for their efforts to support the IDA. Next came some IDA formalities, including the introduction and swearing in of the 2017 board of directors and thanking outgoing board members for their service.

The tradition of having industry leader Keith Duplessie offer the annual “state-of-the-industry” address was in jeopardy this year due to the fact that Keith is serving in the United States Army in the Middle East. Nonetheless, U.S. military technology and IDA headquarters resourcefulness combined to provide the highlight of the meeting: Keith delivered the address via live video feed from Kuwait! The room roared with appreciation as Keith delivered a moving speech full of optimism. It was truly a touching moment of camaraderie in our industry.

The state of the IDA was presented by IDA executive director, Sheryle Hazard, and 2017 president, Mike Dickson. Then it was on to IDA’s annual awards.


Perhaps the part of the Annual Business Meeting that is the most fun is the presentation of annual awards. Those honored were:
• Detailer of the Year — Kevin Awalt, Arkham Shine Auto Detailing Studio
• Mobile Detailer of the Year — Christopher Jankowski, Detail 2 U
• Detail Shop of the Year — Ron Harris, Concours Auto Salon
• Detail Supplier of the Year — Bob Phillips, P&S Sales
• Industry Leadership Award — Jason Rose, Rupes
• Outstanding Service Award — Ed Terwilliger, Cypress College.

In addition to these worthy awards, Kevin Halewood presented the annual awards given by Mobile Tech Expo on Thursday night during a reception and industry celebration sponsored by MTE. Among the many awards presented to folks from the several realms of the automotive reconditioning industry, a couple stand out for us detailers. Bob Phillips won Detailing Person of the Year, and Mike Phillips of Autogeek was awarded the Recon Person of the Year honor.

It shows how far we have come in our industry that we have the capability to recognize industry leaders in a truly meaningful way. Keep up your efforts as a professional, both in your business and in support of the industry, and perhaps you will be the recipient of one of these awards next year.


Just walking around the expo floor, through the hallways of the seminar rooms, in the seminar rooms themselves, and in the lobby of the hotel, there was a lot of IDA buzz. You could see Certification patches everywhere: on hats, on the fronts of shirts, on the backs of shirts, on shoulders, and on business cards. I even spotted an IDA patch at the airport while waiting in line at the ticket counter.

And the networking conversations taking place in the common areas often included support and excitement about the IDA’s efforts.

Why so much new enthusiasm? I believe there are several reasons. Of course, we have the marketing efforts of the dedicated staff at IDA headquarters. Also, among all involved, social media is bringing awareness of the IDA to the entire world. Additionally, I believe that a large increase in non-U.S. membership is due to the efforts of those industry leaders who travel the world as part of their industry-related employment.

Additionally, buzz is created by members proudly exhibiting their membership and certifications patches. And there are many detailers who lead the charge in their own communities by talking to their colleagues and even their “competitors” about the IDA.

If you are “clamoring” for certification, remember that you can always obtain your Certified Detailer status through the IDA website. For Skills Validated, also stay close to the IDA website, the monthly newsletters and e-mail blurbs for announcements about upcoming SV opportunities across the country.


The 2016 IDA Tradeshow and Education Committee did a great job of continuing IDA’s presence at MTE. As chair of the committee for 2017, I hope to expand our reach and exposure into current and perhaps new venues. We also thank Kevin Halewood for his unending cooperation to help us make this event a success. Next year’s MTE will be back at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, and it will likely be even bigger for detailers. I suggest you start making your plans now to attend.

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