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Oil and lube suppliers adapt to the advance of EVs

Bubbles in oil

While excitement has been building over the numerous new electric and hybrid cars bound for the UK in the next 24 months, the business of supplying and selling oils and lubricants remains vital for car dealers and repairers, who will continue to maintain hybrid and internal combustion engine cars for years to come.

It also becomes quickly apparent from the oil suppliers themselves that they continue to increase their product approvals and added-value services as they build strong relationships with dealers.

Castrol provides a comprehensive suite of added-value products and services for its trade customers, whether in the form of customer relationship management (CRM) tools, training for staff, workshop process improvement programmes or even loans for capital expenditure.

Its client base, which includes Arnold Clark, JCT600 and Marshall Motor Group, continues to grow.

Europe-wide Castrol has aftermarket partner-ships with Ford, Volvo, JLR, Honda and Volkswagen Group. A new one, with Renault Group, is on the way. Castrol has had a partnership with Renault’s F1 team for several years and now the relationship is being expanded globally. From 2020, franchisees will gain a new range of oil products jointly branded by Renault and Castrol.

Exol, the UK’s biggest independent lubricants company, has undergone its largest rebranding process, making significant changes to its product labelling and packaging. It renewed the branding on several Exol ranges, introducing new bottles and containers with Exol’s logo embossed on the packaging, and trademarked the new Opticool range of antifreeze products plus a range of agricultural products under the name Optifarm.

The branding displays the Exol guarantee that the products meet the quality expectations of manufacturers. Within weeks, Exol won the CV Supplier of Excellence award from the Independent Automotive After-market Federation.

Steve Dunn, Exol’s sales and marketing director, said: “This has been one of the largest branding exercises we have undertaken and is in response to the growth of our small pack product range. We have also taken the opportunity to produce a more retail-friendly label, offering clear product identification for customers.

“We are delighted with the response from customers and it puts Exol products and branding up there with the very best in the market.”

This latest update follows significant investment in the business over the past five years, including an overhaul of both its Rotherham and Wednesbury sites, implementing new state-of-the-art production facilities and laboratory equipment, a website relaunch and expansion of its delivery truck fleet.

Fuchs Lubricants, based in Stoke-on-Trent, has invested more than £10 million to ensure it remains at the forefront of lubricant production in a competitive marketplace.

The company has targeted all areas across the business, including manufacturing, research and development (R&D), technical processes and logistics.

Managing director Richard Halhead said the investment, which includes a new raw materials warehouse, has “firmly placed Fuchs at the forefront in the R&D, manufacture and distribution of lubricants in the UK”.

Meanwhile, Fuchs’s innovative Lube Cube solution continues to thrive. The Lube Cube, available to franchised car dealerships in five-litre and 20-litre sizes, is packaged in a predominantly cardboard alternative to plastic. The boxes are easier to stack and cheaper to dispose of, making them popular with customers.

Fuchs Lubricants continues to invest in its workforce and currently has 13 apprentices operating from its headquarters.

Mobil1 has introduced a new Mobil1 Engine Guarantee to help its dealer partners with customer retention. If Mobil1’s synthetic oil is provided within the car’s manufacturer warranty period, or up to the first service after that warranty, ExxonMobil will guarantee the engine, at no extra cost, for a further five years or 100,000 miles against damage resulting from a lubrication fault.

Paris-based Motul has identified the UK as a key growth territory, with opportunities to build upon its brand awareness and market share within the motorcycle sector and the reputation it has gained through motorsport.

The three Ps – product, partnerships and promotion – have driven considerable growth for Motul in the UK since early 2018, said Dave Woodman, its business development manager for UK and Ireland.

As the company that introduced the first semi-synthetic lubricant in 1966, and the world’s first 100% synthetic lubricant in 1971, Motul is passionate about the formulation, production and distribution of high-tech engine lubricants. This is led by its premium motorsport product – the 300V.

With the fast pace of change within the automotive lubricants sector, driven by ever-more stringent manufacturer needs to reduce emissions and improve fuel consumption, Motul is continually adapting its automotive range to ensure it is aligned to all relevant manufacturer specific-ations. In the past 12-24 months, this has led to new products being introduced that meet updated specifications such as Ford’s 952-A and PSA’s B71 2290.

Woodman said one consistent trend is the move to low-viscosity oils, with the majority of new requirements being for 0w20 or 5w20 oils, and Motul has recently launched a 0w8 viscosity product.

Motul has secured partnerships with Suzuki GB, Caterham, TVR and Radical, helping the company and its partner dealers to grow awareness and sales.

Promotional activity has also included brand exposure at events such as the Le Mans 24-Hour race, World Superbike, being the exclusive oil and lubricant partner of the Goodwood Revival and supporting PowerMaxxed Racing and Speedworks Motorsport in the British Touring Car Championship.

Petronas Lubricants International (PLI) has unveiled its base oil ETRO+, an improvement from the existing ETRO brand. ETRO+ is a Group III+ base oil that promotes fuel efficiency and the reduction of CO2 emissions.   

ETRO+ base oil is used in Petronas’ own finished lubricant products as well as marketed to other leading lubricant manufacturers worldwide as part of PLI’s ongoing commitment to develop fluid solutions that meet the energy challenges of today and beyond.

“With the help of better fuels and lubricants, we can meet the world’s future mobility needs with reduced emissions. An important lever is to make high quality, fluid technology solutions accessible to all,” said PLI group managing director and chief executive officer Giuseppe D’Arrigo.

Base oils make up an average of 60-80% of finished lubricants. To produce top-tier, energy-conserving lubricants, the automotive industry relies on expensive polyalphaeolefins (PAO) – a key ingredient in high-grade oils, said Petronas.   

PLI supports the drive to address the climate challenge through the development of emissions-reducing fluid technologies.

In 2018, the company pledged 75% of its R&D investment towards developing innovative solutions that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.

Total is the official lubricants partner of Aston Martin, Mazda and Kia.

The company works with partner brands to ensure the supply of its quality lubricants and to help their dealer networks with aftersales marketing and profitability.

Recently, Total has been able to support its dealer partners in the UK with data on prospective business customers.

In the past 12 months, Total announced that its strategic partnership with Nissan in Europe has been extended for the 12th consecutive year. Under the partnership, it has created specific lubricants to support Nissan’s quest to reduce the carbon emissions of its vehicles.

The French lubricants company also committed in 2018 to work with Renault Group and Jedlix, the carmaker’s long-standing smart charging partner, to develop a ZE smart charge offer. Through an app, it will optimise the management of electric vehicle charging to maximise the use of renewable energies and low electricity prices. Renault Group and Total also work together in the field of battery charging infrastructure and energy supply.

From these insights into just the recent activity of oil suppliers in the UK, it is clear they plan to continue providing dealers with the tools to profitably service the UK’s car parc in the years ahead.

 



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