30 Years of NOLN: The Early 90s: 1991-1995

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A lot can happen in 30 years, so we’re continuing our look back by breaking down the past three decades of National Oil & Lube News (NOLN) five years at a time. The ’90s had everyone looking toward the new millennium, wearing Starter jackets and rocking Doc Martens (which have now graduated to the more refined-sounding Dr. Martens). However, NOLN was hard at work keeping up with the fast lube industry. So, set your Pogs down long enough to read about what went on from 1991-1995.

1991

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” by Bryan Adams

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong

• Super Bowl Champs: New York Giants

• World Series Champs: Minnesota Twins

• NBA Champs: Chicago Bulls

• Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed its name to KFC.

An economic recession was on the minds of many in the fast lube industry. When NOLN asked operators about their outlook for 1991, Doug Behrman of Super Lube in Tallahassee, Florida, said the economy was “definitely experiencing a slowdown.”

However, a few operators mentioned they were worried about the oil change market becoming oversaturated.

“I think there’s a real potential for over-saturating the marketplace,” said Dan Cockrum of Pro-10 Minute Oil Change in Modesto, California. “You just can’t support the one-on-every-corner approach.”

The annual “Tops in the Industry” list included 57 fast lubes. Jiffy Lube remained in its No. 1 position with 184 independent/company-owned stores and 900 franchised locations for a total of 1,084 stores. Quaker State Minit-Lube came in second, with Valvoline Instant Oil Change rounding out the top three.

It was mentioned that a few companies didn’t fall strictly into the “fast lube” category and thus were left off the list.

“Excluded from this years top listings are Precision Tune and Sparks Computerized Car Care Centers. Although 90 percent of Precision Tune’s 549 facilities perform oil changes, only about 40 percent use the 10-minute concept. A high number of these utilize lifts rather than pits. Sparks has approximately 150 centers that also perform oil changes, but do not specifically fall into the ‘fast lube’ category.”

However, in today’s list, they would be included in our oil change-plus category.

NAIL (National Association of Independent Lubes) held its trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. More than 600 people attended the event. Frank Denton replaced Bill Lowdermilk as the president of NAIL.

The Operator Survey results were interesting — mostly because of computers. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed said they were using computers to track customers. Less than 40 percent of people surveyed did the same thing in 1990. Sixty percent said they used their computers for inventory control, compared to only 39 percent from the previous year.

The average cost of a basic lube, oil and filter (LOF) was $20.80; average number of cars serviced was 42.4; average starting salary for a technician was $4.83; 77 percent of responders used the newspaper or coupons for advertising.

Glen Morris, owner and operator of one Auto Lube Care center in Ventura, California, and the president of California Lube Corporation and The Impactor, Ltd., was named the 1991 Operator of the Year.

1992

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “End of the Road,” by Boyz II Men

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): Disney’s “Aladdin,” featuring the voices of Scott Weinger, Linda Larkin and the Genie himself, Robin Williams

• Super Bowl Champs: Washington Redskins

• World Series Champs: Toronto Blue Jays

• NBA Champs: Chicago Bulls

• MTV introduced its first reality TV show, “The Real World,” ushering in a new era of shows for the network.

Environmental issues and regulations worried a few of the operators interviewed about what was to come in 1992.

“Federal EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and state environmental laws and regulations could greatly impact operating procedures and cost throughout the industry,” said Floyd Jensen, owner of Champion Lube Center in Waco, Texas.

Senate Bill 1340 had Texas operators worried. The bill contained sweeping new mandates for waste control and waste reduction.

NAIL’s 1992 convention and trade show was located in New Orleans, Louisiana. The keynote speaker was Famous Amos. No word on whether his cookies made an appearance. However, almost 750 people attended, making it the biggest NAIL convention to date.

Jiffy Lube reigned supreme for this year’s Tops in the Industry. They had 249 independent/company-owned stores and 790 franchised stores, for a total of 1,039. Quaker State Minit-Lube and Valvoline Instant Oil Change also kept their places with the No. 2 and No. 3 positions, respectfully.

For the Operator Survey, the biggest increase — yet again — came from computer use. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they used computers for the daily use in their fast lube, up five percent. Almost 57 percent of respondents said they were using point-of-sale (POS) computers.

Average cost of a basic LOF was $22.93; average break-even car count was 27.7; average number of cars serviced was 42.3; average hourly rate paid to technicians was $5.61; only 38 percent of respondents used the newspaper or coupons for advertising.

On August 12, 1992, the EPA announced it would neither list nor classify used oil destined for recycling as hazardous waste.

Larry Read of California-based Oil Changer was recognized as the 1992 NOLN Operator of the Year.

1993

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You” dominated the charts

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Jurassic Park,” starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough

• Super Bowl Champs: Dallas Cowboys

• World Series Champs: Toronto Blue Jays

• NBA Champs: Chicago Bulls

• The phrase, “Got Milk?” was introduced by the California Milk Processor Board.

The worries from the upcoming Clinton-Gore administration reached a fever pitch when operators were asked their opinion on how 1993 would be.

“With Vice President-elect Gore on their side, the environmental groups that seem to have unlimited amounts of money to spend for their causes will not only be knocking on our doors, but they will probably be trying to push them down,” said R. Scotti Lee, owner of Oil Change Express in New Castle, Delaware.

In a state of déjà vu, Jiffy Lube, Quaker State Minit-Lube and Valvoline Instant Oil Change were once again the top three companies on the year’s Tops in the Industry list. Jiffy Lube operated 1,033 stores, Quaker State had 427 stores and Valvoline Instant Oil Change had 385 locations.

1993 marked the first year of the Oil Change-Plus category in Tops. There were 13 stores on the oil change-plus list, with GM “Mr. GW” Quick Lube Plus, Chrysler Mopar XPress Lube and Precision Tune taking the top three spots.

NAIL’s 1993 trade show took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, and attendance was at an all-time high: 1,158. Effective August 1, 1993, NAIL officially changed its name to the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA).

The 1993 Operator Survey received a record number of responses. The average cost of a basic LOF was $23.14; average ticket total was $31.72; average number of cars serviced per day was 43.1; average length of employment for managers was 3.8 years and 1.9 years for technicians; 73 percent of respondents used a computer, up from 62 percent in 1992.

Keith Rabalais was named the 1993 Operator of the Year. He and his business partner, Vaughn Walton, founded Alexandria, Louisiana-based, The Oil X-Change. Rabalais was also elected as AOCA’s president earlier in the year.

1994

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “The Sign,” by Ace of Base

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Forrest Gump,” starring Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and Gary Sinise

• Super Bowl Champs: Dallas Cowboys

• World Series Champs: There was no champion, due to a 232-day strike that canceled the Series.

• NBA Champs: Houston Rockets

• Ford Broncos were made infamous when O.J. Simpson led authorities on a highway chase riding in a white one.

Competing with dealerships and mass merchandisers who use oil changes as loss leaders prompted NOLN to ask operators if they were going to change the way they did business in 1994. Operators answered with a resounding, “No.”

The Tops in the Industry rankings had 59 companies on this year’s list, with 11 new ones. The top three were the usual suspects — Jiffy Lube, Quaker State Minit-Lube and Valvoline Instant Oil Change. Some of the newbies on the list included Avis Lube, Duke of Oil and Speedy Lube.

There were 21 companies on the oil change-plus list. GM “Mr. GW” Quick Lube Plus sill had the No. 1 position, but Midas came in to take the No. 2 spot from Chrysler Mopar XPress Lube, which came in at No. 3.

AOCA held its annual trade show in Orlando, Florida. Attendance was 1,170, with 72 vendors and 106 booths.

Per the 1994 Operator Survey, the average cost of a basic LOF was $23.12; ticket average was $31.64; 63 percent of respondents vacuum customers’ cars; average cars serviced per day was 44.9; the average annual salary paid to a manger was $25,545.

The 1994 Operator of the Year was Larry Dahl, president of the northern California-based Oil Stop Inc.

1995

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Gangsta’s Paradise,” by Coolio featuring L.V.

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): Pixar’s “Toy Story,” featuring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Don Rickles. “Toy Story” forever changed animated movies.

• Super Bowl Champs: San Francisco 49ers

• World Series Champs: Atlanta Braves

• NBA Champs: Houston Rockets

• The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland, Ohio.

• The first X Games were broadcast on ESPN.

Training and environmental regulations were the main issues operators emphasized in the 1995 forecast.

An article titled “Surfing ‘The Net’ Creates World of Opportunity,” mentioned the importance of the Internet and the role it would play in the future.

A bit of a mix up came with this year’s Tops in the Industry. Jiffy Lube remained No. 1, Valvoline Instant Oil Change moved to the No. 2 spot and Q Lube Inc. took the No. 3 spot. There were 65 companies on the fast lube list.

The 1995 Tops in the Industry included foreign facilities and associated chains for the first time.

The Operator Survey was printed in a reader-friendly format that readers were able to clip out and keep for future reference. Net profits in the fast lube industry increased in 1995 to 19.6 percent, from 16 percent in 1994. Eighty-four percent of responders use a computer; the average number of cars serviced per day was 47.86; average cost of a basic LOF was $23.49.

The November issue announced Kmart was selling its automotive centers.

Larry Bartlett, who operated El Paso, Texas-based Lube ’n Go, was named the 1995 Operator of the Year.

The early ’90s saw the fast lube industry persevere through a recession, fight EPA regulations and continue to be a staple in the automotive maintenance industry. Check out the September issue to see what went on from 1996 into the new millennium.

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