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History of Autobell® Car Wash

Since 1969 Autobell® Car Wash has washed over 54 million cars. See our timeline to discover what brought us to where we are today.

autobell logo
autobell logo

1969

Autobell Car Wash 1969

Charles “Charlie” Howard establishes Autobell® Car Wash Inc. and opens Autobell® Car Wash location #1 on South Boulevard. In Charlotte, NC, Charlie’s son Chuck, a Wingate College student, joins Autobell® to do service work. Gas pumps are added to location #1.

1970

Autobell Car Wash 1970

The cost for a car wash was $1.50; you could add hot wax for $.50.

1973

Autobell Car Wash 1973

Arab oil embargo produces long gas lines and the advent of convenience stores that sold gas. Autobell® establishes “Flex Serve” at all four Autobell® locations. Flex Serve gives customers optional service levels, including staying in their car and driving away after an exterior wash.

1974

Autobell Car Wash 1974

Autobell® washes its one millionth vehicle.

1976

Autobell Car Wash 1976

Autobell® adds its first polish and wax.

1977

Autobell Car Wash 1977

The first Greensboro area location opens on High Point Road.

1978

Autobell Car Wash 1978

Autobell® becomes involved for the first time in the Charlotte Carrousel Parade. The Carrousel Parade is now known as the Charlotte Thanksgiving Parade, and Autobell still participates today. The first Autobell® in a shopping mall opens on New Hope Road in Gastonia, NC.

1980

Autobell Car Wash 1980

Charlie Howard’s grandson Carl joins the company and begins working part-time at various locations.

1982

Autobell Car Wash 1982

The Hanna Shammy Wash Process is introduced, as seen in this photo of the Autobell location on Sugar Creek at Eastway Dr. The Autobell location on Charlottetowne Avenue (Independence Boulevard at the time) in Charlotte, NC, becomes the first to be completely computerized.

1983

Autobell Car Wash 1983

Autobell® location #1 moves 100 yards to a new piece of property on South Boulevard.

1985

Autobel Car Wash 1985

Charlie’s granddaughter Leigh Howard Meyer joins Autobell® as a part-time Crew Member. Autobell®’s first western North Carolina location opens on Spartanburg Highway in Hendersonville, NC.

1986

Autobell Car Wash 1986

Charlie Howard passes away. Chuck Howard steps into the role of Autobell® CEO.

1993

Autobell Car Wash 1993

Autobell® washes its 10 millionth car.

1996

Autobell Car Wash 1996

Location #19 opens on West Plaza Drive in Mooresville, NC. This location serves as the new prototype for the Autobell® store design, incorporating the bell as an architectural feature.

1997

Autobell Car Wash 1997

The first Raleigh area location opens on East Millbrook.

1998

Autobell Car Wash 1998

Charlie’s granddaughter Kelly Howard Crenshaw joins the company part-time. The Autobell® Charity Car Wash Program begins; to date, the company has helped raise over $7 million in support of charities, school programs, and other nonprofits.

2000

Autobellregd Car Wash 2000

Autobell® establishes the employee scholarship program; to date, hundreds of employees have been awarded scholarships totaling over $1 million toward college education. Autobell® joins the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Adopt-A-Stream program and begins annual clean-up of Little Sugar Creek.

2002

Autobell Car Wash 2002

Autobell® washes its 20 millionth car.

2003

Autobell Car Wash 2003

The first Tidewater Virginia location opens on Warwick Boulevard in Newport News, VA.

2004

Autobell Car Wash 2004

Autobell® marks 35 years of service with a huge celebration!

2005

Autobell Car Wash 2005

Autobell® hires a dedicated Management Training Coordinator to further managers’ training and safety practices. The Autobell® Summer Games begin as an annual, systemwide employee teambuilding event.

2007

Autobell Car Wash 2007

The first South Carolina location opens on Charlotte Highway in Indian Land, SC. Autobell® washes its 30 millionth car.

2008

Autobell Car Wash 2008

Autobell® hires a full-time recruiter to continue its history of hiring the best employees. The first Atlanta area location opens on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in Suwanee, GA. Autobell® installs its first inground Aqua Bio water reclaim system, enabling 100% recycling by utilizing enzymes to clean the wash water.

2011

Autobell Car Wash 2011

Autobell® washes its 40 millionth car.

2012

Autobell Car Wash 2012

Autobell® installs a green, or “living,” roof at its new SouthPark store in Charlotte to capture storm water and slow runoff, preventing flooding in hard-surface areas, as well as assist in building temperature control.

2013

Autobell Car Wash 2013

Autobell® installs its first above-ground tank biological water reclaim system to enable 100% wash water recycling at existing locations.

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