Happy 100th to the Car Wash! How One Association Is Celebrating

As the car wash celebrates a major milestone this year, the industry’s association is marking the anniversary with activities and commemorations that it hopes will get the whole “family of car washing” involved.

The International Carwash Association is marking an important anniversary this year: The car wash turns 100.

We wanted to say this is the industry’s milestone, not an ICA product, so come with us and let’s have a conversation.

Born in Detroit in 1914, the “automobile laundry” has evolved into a global industry with more than 150,000 retail car washes around the world, according to ICA, which is marking the industry’s centennial by sponsoring a number of celebrations and activities.

“We felt like we do have a bit of a leadership role in the industry to recognize these kinds of accomplishments as the industry’s association,” said Eric Wulf, CEO of ICA. “And we thought that there was some possibility for this to resonate with audiences that would benefit our members.”

Wulf is hoping to generate interest in the industry from the media and general public with a new Facebook page dedicated to the history of the car wash and special historical features in each issue of its quarterly publication, CAR WASH Magazine, as well as celebratory events at the association’s annual Car Wash Show taking place March 31-April 2.

When coming up with the ideas for how to celebrate the anniversary, Wulf said the association wanted to create collaborative activities in which members and the entire industry could participate. The Facebook page, for example, allows anyone to share content and have discussions in an organic, informal way.

“We didn’t want to embark upon something where the association was doing all the lifting,” Wulf said. “We wanted to say this is the industry’s milestone, not an ICA product, so come with us and let’s have a conversation.”

Associations can play an important role in showcasing and celebrating an industry’s history. Last year the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors-National Auxiliary helped honor women’s contributions to small business by donating some of its archival materials to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

To help celebrate its 70th anniversary two years ago, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association hired two former employees to create a display of old photographs, documents, paintings, and other artifacts housed in NRECA’s Arlington, Virginia, and Lincoln, Nebraska, offices.


“The collection’s objective is to bring into full view the highlights of NRECA’s history, the work of its members, and the vital contributions that electric cooperatives make to the nation,” John Conner, applications and data advisor at NRECA, told Associations Now.

For Wulf and ICA, generating interest in the car wash industry would be a boon, but it’s not the anniversary celebration’s end game.

“Investment in the industry or consumer mindshare about getting your car washed, those are all great things,” Wulf said. “But those are all soft ROI. We more so were focused on this as a wonderful time for the family of car washing to recognize an important milestone.”

(via the ICA's Facebook page)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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