Conspiracy Theory? Category of Oil Products Exposed

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Dave Prange

I want to blow the lid off a 100-year history of one of the largest dramas in the automotive aftermarket. It has been in plain view for over 100 years — a market that has reached billions of dollars in sales. You have been both a consumer and purveyor in this market. Let’s open the windows and shed new light onto the business of oil additives.

I’ve been a collector of oil and additives since I was nine years old. I would ride my bike — I wish it was a stingray, oh well — down to the gas stations in my neighborhood. Scrounging through the trash, I would look for pieces of oily treasure — empty cans. I never stopped; today, I have samples that are over 100 years old. The copy and claims for both oil and the additives have remained surprisingly consistent.

The two categories have always been inseparable. You can’t have one without the other. You might say, “Wait, Dave, I can use oil without putting an additive into it.” Sure you can — no argument here — but oil companies have repeatedly broadened and enhanced the additives they put into their products already. The additives added while blending fight friction, temperature and contamination — aka sludge — among other things. Oil companies tailor their offerings to different consumer niches with different packages of additives. So then, why are additives so popular?

Oil has a lifespan. Not so much because oil itself wears out, but because the additive package gets used up and overwhelmed by doing its jobs. Another way to define lifespan is the oil change interval. Historically, this number has fluctuated over the years. Oil change intervals have not only risen in recent memory, but they have also gone down in times past. Regardless of the optimum time and mileage for an oil change, consumers will extend whatever recommendation they believe in.

Companies like mine obviously believe this presents us both an opportunity to serve the driving public. I’m not alone — many oil companies have their own brand of additives. Not only can you go into any dealership and buy additives, but many original equipment manufacturers also put their brand on them.

Why? It’s simple, really. Just look at the vehicles in your center today. How many have leaks? How many are past their interval? How many are in the “add” range with low oil? Additives don’t say anything bad about the quality of oil. However, if there’s not enough of them or they become “used up,” problems, and opportunities, can develop. Increased performance, better mileage and decreased repairs all mean real money saving and satisfaction for your customers.

Are you positioned correctly to serve your customers? Do you have the next generation of formulas? Do your people understand why and how to present these performance supplements? You should call your “snake oil peddler” for a menu inspection. While on the subject of snake oil, I’m proud to offer them. After all, I need to know which snakes to use and how to get the oil out of them — it’s not so easy. Understanding this conspiracy can help your business.

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