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OpenShine and Tommy’s Express look change the car wash experience for Canadians

First locations in Ontario look to make the car wash experience less transactional, more personal.
Tom Venetis head shot
Tommys Car Wash Canada Exterior with vehicle exiting

When ground was broken in Brampton, Ontario on what is to be the first of several Tommy’s Express Car Wash locations in Canada over the next three years, the goal of bringing this well-known American car wash franchise north of the border is to change the car wash experience for Canadians.

Christian Tjia, operations manager with OpenShine, a division of the OpenRoad Group—which has 20 automotive brands at 33 locations in Metro Vancouver, Ontario, and Washington State—says OpenRoad Group approached Tommy’s Express when the team at OpenRoad Group decided Canada was ready for an elevated car wash experience and had land available for a car wash where it currently operates the dealerships OpenRoad Honda and OpenRoad Toyota. 

“We were thinking what we could do with this land and what would add to our existing businesses and improve the value we give to customers, and a car wash came up,” Tjia adds. “We did our research into the car wash industry here in Canada and we found that the Canadian market is significantly behind the American market in terms of the car wash experience.”

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Tommy Car Wash Canada Tunnel with Vehicle

Three additional Ontario-based locations are already in the works to join the Brampton, Ontario location, St. Thomas, London, and Waterloo. 

Tjia says for most Canadians, the car wash experience seems like a chore with a level of customer experience that is little more than transactional and little in the way of added value beyond having the car washed. Simply, the car wash experience is underwhelming.

“Remember, a vehicle for most is either the biggest or the second biggest purchase you’ll make in your life, after your home,” he continues. “OpenRoad is know for its stellar customer experience and for the focus on customer satisfaction during the purchase and service of your vehicle. We want to bring that same elevated customer experience and customer satisfaction to the car wash side of things, to make it feel less transactional and to make everyone feel good about getting their car washed, of making their car look good at the end of the wash and making people happy leaving our car wash.”

To bring that elevated car wash experience to Canadians, the Tommy’s Express Car Wash locations in Ontario will have advanced belt conveyors, free vacuums, and mat washers—including a moulded mat washer—auto-entry via license plate scanners for monthly club members, and special ‘Detail Kits’ for additional interior cleaning. The physical design of the buildings are made to be inviting and front-facing and clearly seen by vehicle owners on the road, and not a drab box hidden away behind another operation. 

“Tommy’s Express has over 50 years of experience in this industry and after doing our research for this industry, and looking at what they were offering and what their values are, we thought they would be a great fit,” Tjia says.

“As a consumer experience, this is going to be like no other,” says Alex Lemmen, CEO of Tommy’s Express. “The whole design strategy behind this model is to make washing the car something unique and enticing, not something that feels like it will take a long time and not a convenient process.”

Lemmen says one should think of a Tommy’s Express Car Wash experience like the experience one has in a high-end coffee shop, one that elevates the simple act of buying a coffee—and a car wash— into something more. “We’ are going to market with a car wash experience unlike any other you have right now. It is focused on using modern technologies to improve the speed, convenience, and value of that car wash. It is one where you will want to have a monthly club pass so you can go as many times as you want to wash and maintain your vehicle, a value that we believe consumers in Canada should and will be excited about.”

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