Procter & Gamble Looking to Clean Up in Car Wash Business

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Procter & Gamble Looking to Clean Up in Car Wash Business

CINCINNATI -- Procter & Gamble Co., which began testing its first Mr. Clean Performance Carwash outlets more than a year ago, said it will expand the upscale service-intensive business nationwide despite the difficult economy.

P&G spokesman Jeff LeRoy told the Associated Press last week it is licensed to operate in 41 states and the company plans to "make it as big as we can." Last month, the consumer product goods giant purchased Carnett’s, an Atlanta-based operator of 14 car washes, and placed that company’s founder, Bruce Arnett, in charge of its car wash operations. P&G also hired a veteran franchising executive, Jim Amos, to lead a new subsidiary that oversees franchising.

The new venture leverages the power of P&G’s iconic Mr. Clean brand and targets quality-minded auto enthusiasts and on-the-go consumers looking for a little extra service and care from their car wash experience.

The company has tested two Mr. Clean Performance Carwashes in the suburbs outside its hometown of Cincinnati. The two 2,100-square-foot units—one in affluent, booming Deerfield Township, the other in an older neighborhood experiencing a renaissance—offer state-of-the-art car wash services, small convenience stores and comfortable lounges, complete with upholstered chairs, flat screen TV, and free Internet access. To keep kids occupies while parents shop, Suds Soaker and Radical Rinse stations allow young ones to squirt soap or water on cars passing through the tunnel.

CSNews first reported on the Mr. Clean Carwash last June. See that story by clicking here.

Many convenience store owners have told CSNews that their car wash business has been one of the biggest casualties of the current recession—noting many consumers can easily put off a car wash when money is tight (or wash their cars themselves). With prices ranging from $15 to more than $50, the Mr. Clean Carwashes don’t appear to be focused on the "value" that is driving most spending decisions today.

And the car-wash industry overall is hurting. "This is a very difficult time to enter the car-wash business," Donnelly Eurick, the executive director of the Midwest Carwash Association, based in Lansing, Mich., told the AP. "It's an optional service, money is tight, the future is uncertain."

However, P&G apparently sees an opportunity to leverage its Mr. Clean brand and create a national car wash chain in a business that is extremely fragmented.