Mr. Clean Takin' It to the Streets

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
mr clean takin it to the streets

Proctor & Gamble are keepin' it real by extending their Mr. Clean brand of car wash products into an actual car wash. The Enquirer reports that the Cincinnati-based conglomerate has opened the first of two Mr. Clean Performance Car Washes within miles of its corporate HQ. Mr. Clean (not an actual person) offers services ranging from a $9 stay-in-the-car express wash up to a $69 full-service interior and exterior clean. While the cynical amongst you might conclude that the move reflects P&G execs' desire for super-clean company whips, the $3.3m facility is [also] an attempt to capitalize on the car wash industry's growth. Industry boosters claim automated car washes are a $35b industry in the U.S., growing at about 10 percent a year. Yes, but– P&G's move into bricks and mortar represents a major change of focus– and risk– for a company known for its ultra-conservative brand management.

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4 of 5 comments
  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Jul 21, 2007

    There's a big difference between selling products to wholesalers and running a commercial, service-oriented establishment. AS Tom Peters said, it's always best to stick to the knitting.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jul 21, 2007

    I happen to know something about the car wash business. (I'm no expert on it, but I've studied it as an investment.) Long story short, it's a tough business in which to build a national brand -- despite some efforts, no one has ever succeeded with this. That must be why it's appealing to P&G, because it's one of the last retail segments in the US that has largely remained a mom-and-pop industry with no market leaders. But I'd say that this is one of those businesses that has remained fragmented for a good reason. My guess is that it remains this way because they are VERY management intensive at the store level. The quality of the employees can make a tremendous difference as to whether you make huge returns, or else whether you barely manage to tread water. To be successful, P&G would either have to subcontract or partner with an operator, or else franchise it. But in both cases, they are entrusting another party with their brand to either build it or drag it down, which could be risky to whatever name they've built with these products. (Personally, I use all those costly snobbish waxes that would never grace the shelves of the local supermarket, so I don't know whether or not this is a good brand in the car washing space.)

  • Shaker Shaker on Jul 22, 2007

    The car wash business is booming because soccer moms not only lack the time to wash the expanse of their SUVs, but many are physically unable to do the "upper bits" without a ladder.

  • Dynamic88 Dynamic88 on Jul 22, 2007

    The whole thing confuses me (not that difficult to do). Is P&G in the DIY car wash products business, or the drive through-someone does it for you car wash business? If I go to the car wash and have someone do all the work for me (whether it's actual people or "magic fingers") do I really care that they use Mr. Clean products? No.