The 18th annual Mobile Tech Auto Recon Expo (MTE) took place January 10-12 in Orlando, FL. It was held this year at the Orange County Convention Center. MTE caters to the mobile (and fixed) automotive reconditioning industry, including detailing, paint, paintless dent removal, interior surface repair, and accessories. The convention has also become the most prominent annual event for the International Detailing Association (IDA) and its members.

MTE continues to be a whirlwind of activity that includes numerous educational opportunities, certification events, plenty of vendor booths to visit, old friends to catch up with and new friends to meet, and dozens of formal and informal meetings.

Management of the show continues with owners ConvExx, which purchased the show in 2017. Certified exhibition management holders Chuck Schwartz and Sheldon Kaye organized a great show with the assistance of “senior show director” Kevin Halewood, who established and ran MTE all those years ago.


I am unabashedly biased in reporting the events of the IDA, but before we get to that, let’s look at the convention as a whole.

There were at least 130 exhibitors — many more than last year — of numerous automotive reconditioning wares, including paintless dent removal tools and supplies; automotive detailing equipment, chemicals, tools, and supplies; business management software; interior surface repair supplies; automotive paint chemicals, tools, and supplies;as well as general equipment and supplies needed to run a mobile or fixed operation.

Education was again a large focus of the convention. “Education Day” was returned to Thursday this year. It featured well over 50 seminars from industry leaders on virtually every aspect of automotive reconditioning techniques, tools, and business management. A handful of educational seminars occurred on Friday and Saturday as well. Additionally, seven, one-hour new-product demonstrations in the vendor demonstration area on the tradeshow floor allowed attendees to get face-to-face with new products and their promoters.

The convention was peppered with numerous meetings and receptions hosted by industry leaders and affiliated trade associations. A highlight event of MTE each year is the opening reception and awards ceremony, which took place on Thursday evening.

The keynote address was offered this year by television personality Dennis Gage, who produces and hosts the 21-season “My Classic Cars with Dennis Gage.” The Saturday morning speech offered his life philosophy of having fun while making money. It was interesting to hear the breadth of Gage’s personal and business activities.


Thanks in part to the numerous and generous IDA-member sponsors, as well as the countless hours invested by IDA directors, committee chairs, and members, Mobile Tech Expo was once again a success for our association, its members, and detailers in general.

The IDA booth served as a hub of activity on the tradeshow floor. The booth was staffed by IDA headquarters representative Cara Anderson, as well as IDA member volunteers who generously gave their time in shifts over the course of the two-day expo. These folks were instrumental in greeting and answering the questions of current IDA members, as well as encouraging prospective members to join our growing organization. Thanks to all those volunteers who signed up at least 21 new IDA members!

The IDA Tradeshow and Education Committee (headed by yours truly) organized one-and-a-half days of 10, one-hour seminars, with presentations made by industry leaders on multiple topics relating to the automotive detailing industry. Thanks to MTE management for supplying us with a room for the entire convention. And thanks to all the presenters, who generously gave their time so that all of us could receive new and exciting information about our industry. All seminars were well attended, each filled with 35 to 100 detailers. IDA Detailing Session presenters included:

• Paul Frasco, CD-SV and Vincent Macri, CD-SV

• Justin Labato, CD-SV, RT and Clint Hintz, CD-SV, RT

• Jim Lafaber, CD-SV

• Yvan Lacroix, CD-SV, RT

• Robert Wrassman, CD-SV, RT

• Rob Schruefer, CD-SV, RT

• Joseph DiFiore, CD-SV

• John Corinella, CD-SV

• Art Baca, CD-SV

• Prentice St. Clair, CD-SV, RT

As usual, the IDA offered detailing certification opportunities for attendees. A “Certification-in-a-Day” event was held on Friday morning. This four-hour event allows a detailing technician the opportunity to complete all 10 of the IDA’s certified detailer exams at one location, while listening to industry experts provide a seminar that contains the information needed to pass the exams. Several detailers signed up ahead of time for the certification, and a number of walk-ins also participated. In all, a total of 23 detailers received their IDA Certified Detailer status.

Additionally, all day Saturday there was an IDA “Skills Validation” event in the IDA demo area of the tradeshow floor. This event provided an opportunity for those detailers who have already achieved Certified Detailer status to complete Phase II of the IDA certification process, known as SV or Skills Validated. The slots for this event were completely full and a long standby waitlist was in place. At the end of the day, 23 Certified Detailers received their Skills Validation. If you want to get your IDA-SV at next year’s MTE, sign up early as space is always at a premium.

And, of course, the highlight of the IDA’s involvement in MTE is the annual business meeting and awards ceremony. This year, in anticipation of a large group of attendees, the event was held in a large ballroom of the convention center. And good thing, as there were at least 175 detail industry representatives present, up 15 percent from last year. For those of us who remember having only a handful of people at the receptions in the early years of the association, it is exciting to see the steady growth of this event each year.

As we enjoyed sponsored food and a no-host bar, IDA executive director Sheryl Hazard presided over the events that included the swearing in of the new IDA board of directors. These voluntary positions help guide the course of the IDA. New board members this year include Jim Goguen, CD-SV; Mark Johnson, CD-SV; and Rob Schruefer, CD-SV, RT. Additionally, the new IDA president, Jonathan Munsell, CD-SV, RT was introduced.

Keith Duplessie, CD-SV, RT gave the annual “State of the Industry” address, the highlight of which was the exciting announcement of the IDA’s effort to encourage the Department of Labor to add the category of “automotive detailer” to its list of recognized professions. IDA committee chairs each offered a quick synopsis of accomplishments in the last year and goals for 2019. And the really cool aspect of this meeting is always the presentation of the IDA annual awards. This year’s recipients are as follows:

• IDA Outstanding Service Award: Joe DiFiore, CD-SV, RT

• IDA Detail Shop of the Year Award: Perfection Plus AutoDetailing

• IDA Mobile Detailer of the Year Award: Kleen Car Wash

• IDA Supplier of the Year: American Detailer Garage

• IDA Detailer of the Year: Joab Flores, CD-SV

After 10 years of existence, it’s fantastic to realize that we have come from 12 original members to 1160 members; 127 supplier members; 57 countries; and three international chapters, with seven new international chapters in the formation process. It is quite obvious that this association is around for the long haul, and will only get bigger and better.

As one of the IDA committee chairs, I was privileged to be invited to sit in on the goal-setting part of the IDA annual face-to-face board of directors meeting, which occurred the Wednesday before the Expo. Having served on the board for the first six years of the IDA’s existence, I can assure you that the current board is made up of a high-quality, driven, and intelligent group of gentlemen who each brings different experiences and talents to the table. And with the very capable leadership of 2019 president Jonathan Munsell, this group is destined to help the IDA achieve its full growth potential for the year.

Stay tuned to the IDA newsletters, e-blasts, and Facebook postings, as the association continues to improve its current programs while rolling out new programs to benefit members.

The sentiment among many attendees was that the Orange County Convention Center, although a beautiful facility, is far too big for our relatively small show. And the fact that the host hotel was 15 minutes away made informal gatherings and meetings much more difficult. We will be encouraging the operators of Mobile Tech Expo to return to the Caribe Royale or a similar location.


Next year’s Mobile Tech Expo will again be in Orlando, FL from January 9-11, 2020. The initial location mentioned is the Orange County Convention Center; stay tuned as this is finalized.

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