From the moment the first Model T rolled off the production line in 1908, people have been in love with their cars. Alexander Paul famously noted, “our cars say a lot about us.” In other words, cars have transcended their original purpose as a form of transportation and have become symbolic icons. The car has come to represent freedom and one’s status in society. Cars are also seen as symbols denoting gender, attitude, and wealth.
People’s love affair with their cars emphasizes appearance. How a car looks is a critical part of the image it portrays and contributes to its value. As such, people spend a lot of time and money detailing their cars. In fact, car detailing has become a huge industry, and the U.S. market is valued at $11.5 billion.
Why people are in love with their cars
Cars have become part of our collective ego. We identify through our cars and make them image symbols. They have now been integrated into our urban psyche. We invest emotions in our cars and see them as a symbol of our identity and our position in society.
We all have an image of ourselves, including how others see us and how we see ourselves. In modern society, it’s all about appearances—and appearances matter. Indeed, many have argued that individuals are defined not by who they are but by who they appear to be.
The type of car you drive denotes your image. For example, if you drive a Land Rover, your image is that of the outdoors type of person. If you drive a pickup, your image is that of a tradesperson. Meanwhile, if you drive a minivan, your image is that of a middle-class suburbanite.
Through music, advertising, movies, and popular literature, cars have become symbolic of freedom. For example, in Tracy Chapman’s song “Fast Car,” the car is a means to escape. A car represents freedom of movement because it can transport you to a new destination, a new situation, and even a new reality.
A car denotes its owner’s wealth and status in society. For example, people who drive two-door luxury sports cars are signaling that they are financially endowed enough to afford the car and that they are living a flashy, ostentatious lifestyle.
A car can also portray wealth and status in a totally opposite way. Take, for example, luxury cars. People who own these cars want to send the message that they are important. They want to be perceived as people who move into the upper echelons of society. Their choice of vehicle represents their identity as people who have made it and can exert a certain amount of power.
Car cleaning and detailing market size
When viewing a car, its appearance is paramount. In fact, the importance of appearance is signified by the size of the car wash and the auto detailing market.
In 2020, the global car wash and auto detailing market was at $35.34 billion. Analysts project that in 2025, the industry revenue will reach $41.0 billion.
In 2021 in the United States, the car wash and auto detailing industry was valued at $11.5 billion, with analysts predicting a growth rate of 5.3%.
When it comes to maintaining the quality appearance of their car, most people will use bring their vehicles to a professional auto detailing service. These services will apply detailing techniques to improve your car’s appearance and offer protection from the elements.
Car detailing is divided into two components: interior detailing and exterior detailing. The goal of each is to improve or restore the car’s appearance and offer protection against the elements.
Typically, exterior car detailing will concentrate on wheels, windows, bumper bars, and body panels. It also involves rustproofing, cleaning, undercoating, and restoring the external portion of your car. Companies that offer these services use polishes, wax, detergents, ceramic coatings, paint, window tints, and de-greasers to ensure that the car stays sleek and robust.
Meanwhile, interior detailing involves cleaning, vacuuming, and restoring the interior of a car. This includes the windows, dashboards, carpets, and seats. Typical interior detailing involves the use of specialized cleaning materials and restoration to prevent any corrosion and other damages.
Society’s love affair with cars has evolved over the last century and shows no sign of stopping any time soon. Cars have become symbolic of our lifestyle, our personality, our societal status, and our wealth. The symbolic value of cars has prompted a general emphasis on appearance. This, in turn, has increased the growth of the auto cleaning and detailing industry.