By Clint Simone
Car-Care Market Update
New Treatments for New Customers
Car wrapping, seen here at the 2015 SEMA Show, is a trend in the car-care and appearance segment that applies a colored and sometimes textured graphic over a vehicle to create an eye-catching finish.
There are literally hundreds of car-care products on the market today, each aimed at making cars look good. According to a SEMA market report, the market for wax, cleaning products and other chemicals was worth $1.49 billion in 2015. The majority of the products, roughly 61%, are sold in brick-and-mortar auto-parts chains and retail chains.
The aisles in such stores display the car-care industry’s newest innovations and also illustrate an ongoing challenge. With so many new types of paint, wraps and surface finishes, consumers have a hard time differentiating one product from another. One marketing expert we talked to described the car-care aisle at retail outlets as “the wall of confusion.”
To minimize retail proliferation and consumer confusion, the industry is working to consolidate several products and purposes into one application. Another tactic is to create new, easy-to-use products aimed at very specific niches.
For example, the team at Mothers Polish described a new product from the company that is aimed at drought-impacted areas while also catering to urban consumers. The Mothers Waterless Wash & Wax new product for 2016 gives consumers the opportunity to clean their vehicles without having access to a water source. Mothers Polish Marketing Director Ken Holland explained the rationale, “Consumers need the convenience of being able to clean their cars without getting the hose out.”
The team at Professional Detailers Inc. details hundreds of thousands of cars per year, including many that have unique exterior and interior options.
Over time, the company saw a growing demand for the quick and easy waterless application and developed the product to address two key areas: consumers who live in water-stricken areas and consumers who live in places where a water source might not be easily accessible, such as an apartment complex. In some cases—urban areas in Southern California and the Southwest—both markets are addressed. The actual application of the product isn’t a challenging process either.
“Just apply liberally, wipe away with a microfiber towel, and that’s pretty much it—clean car, great shine,” said Craig Burnett, head chemist for Mothers Polish. “The waterless system works to remove dirt from the vehicle surface and leave a protective layer of wax in the process.”
Mike Pennington, global director of training and consumer relations for Meguiar’s Inc., agreed that the idea of simple, easy-to-use products is one of the biggest requests from consumers.
“One of the upcoming trends is quick and easy,” he noted. “Whether it is one product that does multiple things or even a longer-lasting product, consumers are going after ease of use.”
“In the event that a car just needs to look clean and presentable, all-in-one products are the best in terms of quick and easy,” agreed Mike Price, CEO of Professional Detailers Inc., a company that contracts with exhibitors at automotive events all across the country. “This is a product that does correction and protection all in one step,” he said. “Typically, it is a polishing compound that is more paste-like than spray.”
This car was wrapped with a chrome finish for the Avery Dennison Wrap Like a King Challenge, which took place at the 2015 SEMA Show.
To accommodate this current trend, Meguiar’s developed two very different products, both driven by the quick-and-easy concept. The Whole Car Air Re-Fresher is an odor-killing aerosol spray that encapsulates smells in the interior of the car’s cabin and replaces them with a pleasant scent. Meguiar’s said that activating the can, shutting the car door and letting the A/C run on circulate for 15 minutes will give the car a completely revitalized smell. For the vehicle exterior, the company developed another new product for 2016, the Hot Shine Reflect Tire Shine. In a spray-paint-like canister, the product refinishes tires by using an industry-first micro-bead glass system that works to give tires a refinished look.
New Targets, New Products
For a variety of reasons, the car-care market has become something of a generational phenomenon. Marketing campaigns, product placement and car shows all point to the idea that a Baby Boomer spending hours in his garage working on a ’57 Chevy is the classic customer. In an effort to break that stereotype and acquire new customers, some companies are working on solutions to accommodate consumers that extend beyond the parameters of the classic-car owner, aiming at a relatively untapped market—the Millennial generation. (According to research and marketing gurus, the Millennial is someone currently 18–34 years of age who likely shows interest in current, trendy topics.)
The Meguiar’s line of Mirror Bright products aims to bridge the gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials by offering a quality product in a retro package.
Meguiar’s Customer Engagement Leader RJ de Vera is responsible for developing products that bridge the gap between generations. The company’s latest line of products, called the Mirror Bright Collection, is targeted directly at the Millennial generation.
“Our research has indicated to us that there is a newfound embrace of ‘what is old is now new again’ among the younger-mindset customers,” de Vera said, noting that this idea may apply across many categories of products. “From vinyl records, to artisanal and craft-made items, you will find a huge sub-segment of people who are interested in products that celebrate this. Our goal was to celebrate the art of the skilled hand with the Meguiar’s Mirror Bright brand, and we believe it is resonating well.”
The new line of products is actually a call back to when Meguiar’s started as a furniture-polish company 115 years ago. The early Meguiar’s products were placed in glass bottles, the clear choice at the time. Today, however, that “vintage” look is exactly what drove the company to create the Mirror Bright line—the link between classic style and modern consumer preference. While the packaging may be vintage, the formulated line of waxes and detailing products inside includes the latest formula from Meguiar’s.
Another emerging trend in the industry is the use of car wraps to change the appearance of a vehicle.
“A vehicle wrap is a large, conformable vinyl graphic or decal applied directly over a vehicle’s existing paint job,” said Joey Heiob, technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions. “Car wraps allow the entire look of a vehicle to be changed pretty quickly and are available in many different colors, textures and finishes.”
Waterless Wash & Wax is a new Mothers Polish product for 2016 and is designed to clean cars in situations where taking out the hose is not an option.
The latter point is why many customizers are choosing to wrap their cars as opposed to painting them. The customization opportunities offered with a wrap are considerable, ranging from chrome to matte to even satin. As that creative trend expands and takes hold, many are left wondering how to best maintain a car wrap, and that creates an opportunity in a small but growing segment of the market.
“You don’t want to wax matte or textured films because it will fill in the texture, causing glossy spots,” Heiob said.
Avery Dennison addressed that problem by introducing the Supreme Wrap Care Kit, which it recommends to maintain and clean a wrap. Heiob also shared an insider tip, “A 50/50 mix of isopropyl alcohol and water can work well to clean these films, although perhaps not as well on the lighter colors.”
As the wrap trend continues to grow, we can expect more consumer demand for targeted maintenance solutions. Matte finishes are another challenge for professional detailers like Price.
“With new cars that have matte paint, make sure to never use polish of any kind,” he advised. “On older, lacquer-based paints, it is safe to use the all-in-one products that work to correct any issues and protect what is left over.” In terms of old vehicles versus new, Price explained, “Just be careful; every case is different. Always try the least aggressive method first.”