Columbus Startup is Bringing On-Demand Car Care to the Masses

car with Vohnt logo on side outside a parking garage

How Vohnt is delivering your oil change and detailing

We all know the importance of regular car care — oil changes, cleaning, replacing brake pads — but how many of us prioritize it? In our busy lives, it can be a challenge to find spare time, make an appointment, sit at a shop and pay hundreds of dollars. But what if that process could happen in the same way that you order food, all while you stay home? That’s the kind of paradigm shift Columbus startup Vohnt hopes to create.

“Vohnt is an on-demand valet car care service — we like to think of it as cloud car care,” said Co-founder Andrew Hulse. “You use Vohnt in the same way as some of the cloud-based food services, like DoorDash, where you place your order and all you see is the end product. My partners and I were pretty frustrated and fed up with the way that car care is performed. We’re always on the go and one of the things that ended up being last on the to-do list was getting our cars serviced, even though we use them every day. After years of the industry not doing anything to change the way car care was done, we thought, ‘You know what? This is an opportunity and it needs to change.’ We felt like we could be the ones to do it.”

Founded last year, Vohnt started by working with a local shop in Dublin to work out the mechanics of their process. Now, they’re open to working on cars within about a 30-mile radius of their Columbus home. To start, they’re offering basic services like interior and exterior detailing, oil changes, brake replacement and tire rotation, and they’re delivering it like people order lunch.

“You go to our website, where we have a basic overview of how it works, and you can just click “book now” and select one of the services,” said Hulse. “We have a network of drivers that are alerted when an order is placed. They pick up the vehicle and bring it back to the facility, where it gets put into our assembly line process. Within two to three hours, we reroute all of our drivers and the cars to return them. We’ve been able to do it very efficiently so far, and we’ve been impressed with the results. Now, we’re developing a much more elaborate web app and eventually a mobile app.”

They even hired a literal IndyCar pit crew to come in and help them make the process as fast as possible. Over the course of several months, they streamlined the process so that a full interior and exterior detail can be completed in just 47 minutes under perfect conditions. Even on a busy day, the process can be complete in 60 to 80 minutes. But all that work isn’t just about being fast, it’s about bringing this basic car upkeep to a wider audience.

“The core ethos of our model is that these services can be done almost on demand within two to three hours,” said Hulse. “For many people, when you say “detailing,” they think that’s for somebody who has a Mercedes or a really nice car. It’s seen more as a luxury. We wanted to make it more accessible because that difference in quality of life really does have an impact on your overall mood. On average, a normal detail is going to cost you anywhere between $250 to $400, but we’re able to offer it for $150. And it can be done on your car’s time, not yours.”

With their process nailed down and their first test city underway, Vohnt isn’t resting on its laurels. The company has plans for a future where most of their clients’ cars will be driving themselves. And while it may be several years until that plan comes to fruition, the company is growing with an eye toward a world full of autonomous vehicles.

“We believe pretty strongly that within the next five or 10 years, autonomous vehicles are going to be widely available and utilized,” said Hulse. “We want to build out the infrastructure and the technology, so that we can integrate with these autonomous vehicles. Whenever somebody needs their tires rotated, or you just want your car cleaned, you can just press a button and your vehicle will come to one of our headquarters and return itself to the same spot it was parked. That’s the long-term vision of where we’re going. Our goal is to be one of the first companies to fully integrate with these autonomous vehicles, to service them in a much more efficient, autonomous way.”

As they look toward scaling beyond central Ohio, Vohnt’s Columbus home is “near and dear” to Hulse and the company’s partners, all of whom have experience at a variety of Ohio companies and startups. While their “deep network of connections” made a launch in Columbus a no-brainer, Hulse said starting a company in the city is about more than just existing friendships and networking.

“Columbus is a great place to try things and test new ideas,” he said. “There are large suburban areas but also a pretty dense Downtown metropolis, so it’s good to test out several different models that way. Overall, Columbus is just a great place at the moment. It’s one of the top places for startups, growth and venture capital, and there’s a very innate, “in-this-together” mentality. There have been so many different people, whether it’s mentors or fellow entrepreneurs, who have given us advice and made introductions. That’s key for anything that you do. We wouldn’t have had that same level of help and collaboration anywhere else outside of Columbus, and so it’s been a pretty big part of our initial growth since launch.”

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