Need to know
- Dealers should highlight the money-saving benefits of correct oil choice
- Next-generation oil focuses on low viscosity
- Servicing intervals won’t be reduced due to high stress on new downsized engines
- Customer knowledge varies dramatically
Engine technology is constantly evolving. Cars are going further on less fuel, engines are lasting longer, warranties are covering vehicles for longer periods of time and customer expectations continue to increase.
There is no denying that economical vehicles have become a powerful sales tool and carmakers are continuing to push cash into green technologies. Average new car CO2 emissions fell to a new low of 138.1g/km in 2011 and have fallen by more than 20% in the past 10 years.
The environmental and economic performance are so highly developed within engines that they can only be achieved with the correct lubricant.
The efficiency elements within a vehicle are based on all the moving parts being correctly lub-ricated at the optimum level, quickly, efficiently and constantly at a given range of temperatures.
As engines continue to develop in line with emissions regulations, the lubricants must develop in line with, if not ahead of, them, meaning that oil companies must invest time, effort and money on research and development.
With the demand for green vehicles comes the need for the right engine oil.
So, what are oil manufacturers doing to keep on top of automotive technology developments?
New lubricants can pass through 100 formulations prior to approval to ensure that they are the best that they can be for power, performance and protection.
Companies like Q8Oils have reacted to the industry’s continued pursuit of efficiency with a range of synthetic engine oils which have ‘advanced molecular polymers’. These high-performance engine oils offer added viscosity, which helps to withstand the added pressures that low emission vehicles place on engines.
Shell is working with manufacturers on next-generation extremely low viscosity formulations or fluids capable of both lubricating the engine and cooling high energy density battery systems without risk of electrical breakdown.
One example of successful collaboration is the work Shell carried out with Gordon Murray Design (GMD). GMD recently developed a lightweight city car with a 660cc, low-friction engine. Working with GMD, Shell developed a concept lubricant outside current industry oil specifications.
The resulting 0W-10 lubricant contributed to fuel savings of up to 6.5% (compared to conventional 10W-30 oil widely used in European markets) on an urban cycle designed to mimic city driving. Besides that, Shell says that by working with motorsports teams like Ferrari, experimental research and development help shape its future product launches.
At ExxonMobil its newest projects focus on low viscosity, fully synthetic engine oils.
Dan McGoldrick, field marketing co-ordinator at ExxonMobil, said: “Now more than ever, we’re seeing consumers look for
products that enhance their vehicle’s fuel efficiency, so we’re responding with a line of Mobil 1 oils and lubricants that increase fuel efficiency while maintaining Mobil 1’s protective qualities.
“We test new products in most severe conditions possible. It’s these rigorous conditions that help us meet a number of OEM technical specifications and ensure it has the relevant approvals to exceed customers’ expectations.”
Dealers need to continue to educate their customers to help them choose the right lubricant for their vehicle by pointing out the benefits and how they significantly outweigh any additional costs that might be incurred.
Advanced technology can help engines perform more efficiently leading up to a potential fuel economy saving of between 3% and 4.2%.
It’s difficult to make oil technology interesting for customers, but explaining the benefits in terms of how much money they will save as a result of choosing the right oil is a good start.
Using the right lubricants can save customers money – the equivalent of 621 more miles travelled for less on their fuel bills.
Does increased efficiency mean decreased service work?
Although car manufacturers and engine oil manufacturers seem to be maximising the demand for low emission vehicles, going green could see dealerships out of pocket.
The higher-performing engines and oils lead to a reduction in cars requiring servicing.
It is a difficult position to be in. A customer’s car lasting longer has to be a manufacturer’s goal, but dealers are ultimately affected by that increase in reliability. One dealer jokingly told AM recently: “Our manufacturer makes its products too well; we’re not seeing customers enough for service work.”
Toby Butler, Shell auto OEM marketing manager, said: “From the perspective of oil changes, we do not foresee the service intervals increasing.”
Butler believes carmakers are moving towards smaller, turbocharged engines resulting in higher temperatures and more severe operating conditions.
He said: “These harsher engine conditions mean that using high-performance motor oil technology is more crucial than ever to ensure that the engine is protected, operating at optimum efficiency while also ensuring that engine friction is minimised. Given these trends in engine design and the tougher conditions the oil has to withstand it is unlikely we will see oil service intervals lengthen in the near future.”
Louise Brunyee, Q8 Oils marketing manager, admitted that although dealers may still face a decrease in visits due to engine problems, it will ultimately help to reduce the number of small jobs dealerships often have to contend with, which opens the doors to bigger jobs with increased spend and a rise in customer satisfaction.
Lucy Pimblott, Total Lubricants market intelligence executive, said: “The increase in intervals between services can result in consumers not having their oil checked for a year or more.
“The potential impact of engine stress can be high and therefore is it crucial that a one-litre top-up is provided at the time of service. The addition of a top-up pack should be seen as an additional benefit that is being provided as it prevents a distressed purchase of incorrect oil causing expensive damage to the car.”
Consumers care more about their olive oil
A study commissioned by Total Lubricants showed that people take more time choosing their olive oil than they do the oil for their engine and nearly 60% of people surveyed didn’t know what oil their car should have.
Dan McGoldrick, at ExxonMobil, said: “It’s clear that drivers are largely unaware of the benefits of using synthetic motor oil and in some cases people don’t even have a basic understanding of its fundamental role.”
Toby Butler, from Shell, believes customers do care what oil is in their car, but they do not understand motor oil that well.
Last year, Shell Helix surveyed more than 200 UK garages and found that at least 60% of UK car workshops are not proactively helping customers select high- quality lubricants and that only 2% of workshops recognised fuel economy as a significant benefit of using the right engine oil. Further, less than one in 10 (9%) said they discussed fuel economy when advising customers on oil choice.
This suggests opportunities for UK workshops to add value to vital aftermarket revenue streams are being missed.
How consumers choose their oil
A range of views from the public shows how different their knowledge is about engine oil.
Drew Mason: I tend to go for a reasonably priced brand. I don’t believe that in an everyday car, super expensive oil will have much benefit. But also I don’t want to buy the cheap unbranded stuff from motor factors. I’ve been using Mobil Super 2000 for the past few years.
Dale Vinten: I used to put in Castrol Edge 10W-60 in my BMW M5 as it was specific to M engines (apparently), but my Ford Capri gets whatever is cheapest. Although saying that I do make sure it’s 20W50 because for a high mileage car that burns oil it’s better to use thicker oil as it tends to stay in the engine rather than work its way into the cylinders.
Mark Cadman: As long as it’s a renowned brand, the correct grade, affordable and changed regularly, it really doesn’t matter what it is.
Angela DaCosta: No idea. Whatever goes in when it goes for a service. I couldn’t even tell you which brand I have in there right now. If I had a choice it wouldn’t be the cheapest but it would be the lower end.
Scott Gowan: Mine burns oil with fuel so I tend to buy a brand that is designed specifically for that purpose and normally on recommendation from fellow car owners. I’m not too worried about brand so long as it’s proven to be good.
Ross Gibson: I buy cheap and cheerful for the daily diesel but higher grade fully synthetic for anything performance-based I have. The extra money you pay is purely on the additives.