Industry insiders agreed that extended oil drain intervals were on their way, but not here yet. Now, it appears they have arrived. Or have they?
The Quaker State "protection beyond 3000 miles" television ad campaign put extended drains on the front burner. It tells motorists that their "secret" is out; even the oil companies know motorists extend their drain intervals. Quaker State and U.S. Department of Transportation statistics show motorists extended their oil drain intervals to 5620 miles in 1997 and are expected to increase them to 5880 miles in 1998.
The Quaker State campaign capitalizes on the guilt motorists feel about going past 3000-mile drains. "Consumers are going past 3000 miles, but they're feeling guilty about it," Quaker State Vice President of Marketing Bill Tucker told National Oil & Lube News (Nov. 1998) (NOLN).
Is Quaker State firmly in the extended drain camp now? No. The company claims its reformulated oil is not an extended drain product, but is capable of 7,500-mile drain intervals in severe service conditions. "We're selling insurance. We're not selling extended drain intervals," Quaker State Brand Manager Steve Langrehr told NOLN.
Quaker State designed its ad campaign to alleviate that guilt by assuring customers that the newly reformulated Quaker State oils protect beyond 3000 mile intervals in all types of driving. Curiously or perhaps not so curiously, the campaign appears also to remind those that follow the 3,000-mile recommendation that their oil needs changing.
"Many of the [market research participants] felt guilty after seeing the ad. Several of [them] said the message was to change the oil and use Quaker State," said Tucker.
In other words, the company has positioned itself to profit from consumer guilt by motivating some consumers to change their oil and profit from guilt-reduction by reassuring consumers that their "bad" behaviour is not bad, as long as they use Quaker State products.
The strategy also positions Quaker State for longer automaker drain interval recommendations. "The truth is," says Tucker, "sooner or later the OEMs will move off 3000 miles."
"Sooner or later the OEMs will move off 3000 miles." - Quaker State
Quaker State has also positioned its Q Lube oil change centers for modestly extended drain intervals, offering a 4000-mile/4-month engine warranty program.
It is interesting to note that Pennzoil, now the parent company of Quaker State, is strictly promoting the 3000-mile drain interval with its "Stop. Go. Pennzoil." campaign. Is the new combined company advertising the smaller Quaker State division as the point man to explore extended drain marketing while the larger, more lucrative Pennzoil division rakes in the profits of short drains as long as the profits are there to be made? It's a strategy that maximizes profits now and positions the company well for the future.
Finally, the Quaker State campaign may put other oil companies in the hot seat. How can they let the Quaker State challenge go unmet? It won't be long until most off a "beyond 3000-mile" severe service oil.
But please note, this is "keeping up with the Joneses" marketing, not a commitment to long drains or a commitment to truly giving consumers what they want. None of the majors who may develop "beyond 3000-mile" oil will recommend those oils for intervals beyond 7,5000 miles until automakers force them to. That clearly differentiates the "me too" marketing of the big oil companies from the commitment of AMSOIL to pushing out the boundaries of oil quality and drain interval recommendations.
CASI CAR Campaign
The oil change industry has long regarded extended drains as an avenue to financial ruin. One of its trade organizations, the Convenient Automotive Services Institute (CASI), introduced the Council for Automotive Reliability (CAR) at its 1998 leadership forum in November.
CAR is an umbrella group for car dealers, repair garages, auto parts stores, filter and oil suppliers, fast lubes and others affected by the trend toward extended drain intervals. CAR is part of the CASI consumer education campaign designed to reduce the trend toward extended drains. It will gather and disseminate consumer information through media campaigns, in-store promotions and special events.
Quaker State, Texaco/Equilon, Valvoline, Castrol and Pennzoil, the top five motor oil suppliers to the fast lube industry, are supporting the campaign financially. (Isn't that interesting, in light of Quaker State's ad campaign?)
While CASI asserts that the efforts of CAR must be in the consumer's best interests, CASI president Larry Northrup states that "we own the customers' perceptions of their oil changes and oil change intervals."
A Voice of Protest
Jerry T. Shelby, of Lubrication Consultants Inc. in Houston, wrote a letter to Lubes 'N' Greases (Nov. 1998) inquiring why oil drain intervals have not changed in 20 years if motor oil quality has improved dramatically over the same period.
"If the quality of today's oils are magnitudes ahead of the old oils, and the engines in today's cars are beyond imagination 20 years ago, what gives?"
"My guess is that the automakers need to protect their engines and the oil companies need to sell engine oil. The result is higher and higher quality oils, with the same oil drain intervals, with both concerns getting what they want, i.e., having their cake and eating it, too."
"I know the push for higher quality oils is multi-faceted, but isn't one of the major goals extended drain intervals? And what about the synthetic, SHCs and PAOs? Do they get the same three months or 3000 miles...Why all the effort to develop super oils if they still, after 20 years, only last 3000 miles?"
So What's the Truth?
Car manufactures now want extended drain intervals, but the American Petroleum Institute (API) hasn't been willing to address the topic. Big oil companies don't want to go past the 3,000-mile drain interval because it will reduce the amount of lubricants sold, so they instill fear in the customer to change at 3,000-miles. It's as simple as that. They don't have proof that their oils need to be changed that often, yet they promote the continued use of resources to pad their wallets. The fact is, top quality synthetic motor oils do last more than 3,000 miles. AMSOIL has demonstrated that
"If the quality of today's oils are magnitudes ahead of the old oils, and the engines in today's cars are beyond imagination 20 years ago, what gives?" -Lubrication Consultant Larry T. Shelby
such oils easily last at least three times that long. Since 1972, AMSOIL has recommended its oils for 25,000-mile/one-year drain intervals. Countless motorists have used AMSOIL synthetic motor oils at the drain interval recommendations of AMSOIL, INC. The technology's proven.
What does it take for an oil to provide such long drain intervals?
AMSOIL developed extended drain oils 25 years ago as a commitment to serving its customers, preserving our environment and conserving resources. AMSOIL is decades ahead of other oil companies in this area. And that's why AMSOIL synthetic motor oils will be the only true long drain oils available for a long time to come.