Mr. Clean puts the pedal to the metal with a new line of car washes!

Mr. Clean, the bald, buff, white-shirted scourge of dirt and scuff marks has long been known for his ability to sanitize floors and walls, counters and appliances. Recently, however, Procter and Gamble, the owners of the popular brand, determined that the time has come for Mr. Clean to take his act on the road. Literally.

Over the past two years, P&G has embarked on the first steps toward its entry into service-based industries. While its small line of "Juvian" fabric care centers was relatively unsuccessful, the company has high hopes for franchises that will cash in on the reputation of its Tide and Mr. Clean lines. Over the last two years, it has tested the waters with two licensed Mr. Clean car washes and three Tide laundry outlets, and recently decided that Mr. Clean will be its first wide-spread attempt at franchising.

As a jump-start into the service industry arena, P&G purchased Carnett's Car Wash, a small chain with fourteen franchise locations. In addition to offering a base for Mr. Clean's first foray into the market, Carnett also brings a considerable depth of experience to the new company. While there isn't a clear national car wash leader, the Arnett family, which owns Carnett, has standardized the car wash trade, offering a level of precision and consistency that is almost reminiscent of McDonald's. From regulating the number of swipes that a dryer gives to a window to teaching the perfect snap that a wiper gives a towel while finishing the car, the Arnett's have created a car-wash system that can be endlessly replicated.

For Procter and Gamble, the Arnett system means that their new chain will be able to offer standardized service across the country. For customers who are skittish about using small, unfamiliar chains, the hope is that the familiar image of Mr. Clean will come to symbolize a trustworthy, reliable, and economical car wash, whether the outlet is located in California, Virginia, or Idaho. In fact, P&G is hoping that the new chain will work both ways, simultaneously feeding off the Mr. Clean name and adding to it. Given the impressive array of Mr. Clean car wash products that are already on the market, it seems reasonable to hope that a well-run car wash chain will enhance the reputation of the cleaning line.

If Procter and Gamble succeeds in transferring their premium supermarket reputation into the service industry, it will be interesting to see who follows them. Can a General Mills Cereal Bar be far behind? How about a Sara Lee Cheesecake outlet? One thing's for certain: if I see a Dulcolax-licensed cafeteria, I'm running far, far away...
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