The dusty desert has always kept local carwashes busy.
Unlike the 30-plus minute waits of yesteryear, drive-thru systems can have customers on their way in as little as five minutes.
The introduction of automated tunnels and self-serve operations has created a boon for the industry.
Mister Car Wash, which moved its headquarters to Tucson in 1998, recently bought Arizona Auto Spa, bringing the number of Tucson shops to 15. The company has a total of 202 throughout the country.
And homegrown company Dynamite Car Wash Concepts is building its fourth location near Ajo Way and Interstate 19.
Dynamite began with a shop at 12th Avenue and Drexel Road in 2011 and doesn’t see the need to leave the market in order to grow.
“There’s so much opportunity in Tucson and growth in Tucson, there’s really no need to expand,” said owner Evo DeConcini.
He foresees building at least two more facilities in the next two years. His company has about 20 full- and part-time employees.
The new Dynamite Car Wash Hypersonic, near Ajo Way and Interstate 19 — will feature a 120-foot conveyer in an open tunnel, 14 free vacuum stalls and a free high-pressure, pre-wash prep area for getting rid of those bugs on the windshield after a road trip, DeConcini said.
His three other facilities are self-serve in-bay automated and can clean up to 12 cars an hour. The new conveyer will be able to wash 130 an hour.
Dynamite’s focus is on the customer experience, he said, with simple signage and touch-screen automation without the hard sell of membership.
NO SLOWING DOWN
Mister Car Wash, which opened its new headquarters near downtown in 2014, continues its rapid growth through acquisitions and upgrades of carwashes.
This year’s purchase of 46 stores was a record for the company and there are no plans to slow down, said CEO John Lai.
“Between 30 and 50 stores a year feels doable,” he said. “It’s a wide open field and we’re hungry to add to the network of stores.”
Lai said the simplicity of the automated carwash encourages customers to keep their cars clean.
“If you wash it in the driveway it takes an hour,” he said. “This is simple and that’s why it’s become popular.”
With a focus on employee development, Mister Car Wash has created a university program to grow young employees into general managers or higher positions within the company.
“We’re super proud of our more than 7,000 employees,” Lai said. “If we have a happy workforce, there’s more productivity and higher quality of customer service.”
Lai, who started with the company in 2002 as vice president of market development, said none of his peers had advanced degrees.
“Now there are MBAs and CPAs at the company,” he said.
The company recently bought a building near its headquarters at 222 E. Fifth St., to create more education space and hopes to start a partnership with the University of Arizona for employee development.
For some customers, it’s the convenience and for others the price — automated car washes are as little as $3.
Whatever the motivation, with the growth of these two companies, Tucson cars should have a little more shine on them.