In a city perpetually engulfed in a blanket of dust and unpredictable weather, this new auto care method helps to extend the longevity of vehicles.
BY MUNA SUNUWAR
With air pollution, dirt and grit at a record high in the Kathmandu valley and some major cities across the country, people are not only feeling the effects but the assorted vehicles plying on the roads are also suffering the consequences. As the dust in the air and particle-filled rainwater causes the paint on vehicles to deteriorate, auto detailing services are coming to the rescue. Auto detailing not only protects vehicles but also enhances their aesthetic appeal. It has two aspects, interior and exterior. Interior detailing consists of an all-purpose cleaning process and exterior detailing includes paint correction through cutting, polishing, and coating. Auto detailing professionals ensure the vehicle retains its value over the years.
Why Auto Detailing?
In a city like Kathmandu, vehicles are exposed to sun and rain seasonally. “Water is a universal solvent so if we let it stay on the surface of vehicles for too long, it ends up hampering the paint. Also, ultraviolet rays derogate the quality of the paint,” explains Kabindra Bahadur Mali, CEO of Mali Auto Care Pvt Ltd. His company recently introduced the famous international auto care brand Ceramic Pro in Nepal. Ceramic Pro is a multi-layered nano-ceramic protective coating applied over the body of vehicles for a high gloss finish and long-lasting protection from water, scratches, chemical corrosion, ultraviolet rays and thermal effects offering a very high level of protection to the vehicles compared to conventional ways of auto care such as waxing. At its service station located at Kalimati, Mali Auto Care offers Ceramic Pro products.
Contamination is built up microscopically in the paint of cars over time. The first step of exterior detailing is paint decontamination after which the paint becomes fresh; but paint defects like oxidisation and marring still exists. If the contamination is severe and the level of oxidisation is high, paint correction is mandatory. The coating protects vehicles from external damages for a certain period.
Many Nepalis still use rags that create holes in the clear coats of the vehicle causing the paint to fade. “People think their vehicles need to be painted after they face such problems, but auto detailing can solve these problems,” claims Nikhil Sapkota, managing director of Motors Nepal Pvt Ltd, a Patan-based auto detailing service provider. A small layer of the vehicle’s clear coat is taken out using advanced tools to make the defects disappear, and polish is applied to give shine to the vehicle. “A car can be auto detailed 100 times before it needs to be repainted,” he adds.
Auto detailing service providers say most people are still not aware of the service. Though the flow of clients is comparatively high, they say many prospective clients are yet to understand the concept. Mali says, “A car is the second biggest investment after a house and people are not giving it the care it deserves. People are aware of coating without knowing about auto detailing, which is necessary for coating.”
According to Sapkota, when his company started 1.5 year ago, there was no one in the auto detailing business in Nepal. “We had to incorporate the awareness-based marketing strategy as people did not know about it,” he says. Over the years, he has witnessed a change in people’s attitude towards the new auto care service. Six hundred vehicles have been auto detailed by Motors Nepal until date. As a new and premium service, the cost of auto detailing is higher compared to traditional auto care services. “Detailing is costly, because of which some people are skeptical of the service,” shares Kushal Singh, managing director at Nepal Roadside Assistance Pvt Ltd (NRSA), the service provider of Opti-Coat ceramic coating in Nepal.
Motors Nepal provides the service with a starting price of Rs 7,000 for two-wheelers and Rs 16,500 for small cars while the price can go up to Rs 75,000 for Sports Utility Vehicles, (SUVs) depending on the type of vehicles. NRSA charges Rs 15,000 for SUVs while small vehicles can be detailed for Rs 10,000 to Rs 13,000. The price of the service is Rs 15,000 and above for two-wheelers and Rs 30,000 and above for four-wheelers at Mali Auto Care.
Traditional Auto Care VS Auto Detailing
Most Nepalis still go to conventional auto care service centres to get their vehicles fixed and enhanced. They provide all sorts of services from dealing with the engine, body works, dents, car wash and paints. Mali, however, says that auto detailing mainly focuses on the vehicle’s paint outlook. “Painting the vehicle is not included in auto detailing; instead, it is about enhancing and giving life to the paint already existing in the vehicle,” he expresses, adding, “We have trained professionals to take care of the vehicles of our customers.”
Sapkota says that traditional workshops use rubbing compounds to fix the paintwork in cars and wax to polish a car after its wash. “Wax is the basic form of protection. They mostly use a rubbing compound and wax. It works but not in the long run,” he says, further adding, “Rubbing compound solves the problem but takes off way too much paint from the vehicle.”
Motors Nepal uses ISO and SGA certified products like System X, Nano Ceramic, Rupes and Menzorna imported from USA, Poland, Italy, and Germany respectively. Similarly, Mali Auto Care uses products like compounds of Ceramic Pro 9H coating, Ceramic Pro Light for extra glow, which is hydrophobic, ceramic pro rain for glasses and windshield, ceramic pro plastic for plastic trims and ceramic pro leather, imported from Taiwan. Nepal Roadside Assistance (NRSA) does nano coating using Nano Opti-Coat imported from India.
Auto detailing guarantees the restoration of the degrading look of any vehicle. It provides extra shine and paint protection. “People use tempered glass protector for mobile phones, similarly and the investment in vehicles is huge, so their protection is valid,” Singh justifies. Nano ceramic technology fills the pores and gives a super sleek finish to the vehicle. The coating doesn’t let the dust stay on the surface of vehicles for long. The sleek surface has a smooth effect reducing dust by 50 percent. The coating of vehicles makes them hydrophobic and scratch resistant. According to Mali, it is not essential to repaint as the paint of vehicles can be restored. “The gloss applied on the vehicles remains for six months, and during this period, the cleaning process might cause scratches for which coating is necessary,” he informs. Meanwhile, Sapkota of Motors Nepal says that it takes 45 minutes to wash an SUV but if it is coated it takes only 15 minutes.
Prospects in the Nepali Market
The client range of such services is getting wider. Though Nepalis are starting to notice the benefits of coating in the automotive sector, it has multiple applications and can be applied to laptops, phones, bathroom, and glasses. Motors Nepal has ventured into the aviation sector too. “We have coated the helicopters of Kailash Helicopters Pvt Ltd and are coating Nepal Airlines’ A330 in a year,” mentions Sapkota.
Auto detailing service providers believe that awareness regarding auto detailing is necessary for the business to grow. They hope to see collaboration with auto brands in the future to expand their presence in the Nepali market further. Motors Nepal is currently present in Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara, Biratnagar, and Butwal. Mali Auto Care has plans to expand its reach in cities like Pokhara, Narayanghat and Butwal. The companies also plan on training people to create more auto detailing professionals in Nepal.