Letters to the Editor
Name Brand Vs. Off-Brand
Most veteran quick lube owners would agree there has been a paradigm shift from brand to off-brand oils in the last few years. Being one of those veterans, I felt the need to discover what had changed an industry so rapidly.
Following the industry’s direction, in 1986, I joined up with a major respected oil brand. This contract forced me to stay brand exclusive, but let me keep my independence. The branded oil got them to come in, but my smile kept them coming back.
The support the major brands gave was not only technical, but also financial. My loyalty to the brand was unwavering. They went so far as to invite my wife and I to a NASCAR event they were sponsoring. While at breakfast, the CEO came to the table and poured my wife a cup of coffee. When I thanked him he said, “Anything for our customers. We know who you are and the numbers you are doing.” Fast-forward 20 years and multiple mergers, and the major brand made the collective decision to embrace the off-brand model by eliminating direct sales. Not only would an independent dealer no longer be able to deal directly with brand X, but brand X would merge, sell off its plants, eliminate its salesman and even dump the independents off to distributor XYZ, who now uses the old brand X factory to make a generic equivalent and hire the old brand X salesmen.
This paradigm shift in the motor oil market has not gone unnoticed by the automobile industry. Their response has been to come up with manufacture specific ratings for motor oils such as dexos and 229.5. These ratings have effectively made oil brand identity a moot point. That being said, I have been educating my customers it is better now to follow the auto manufacturers ratings.
Brand X let the market slip right through their fingers. That is sad for me. I never got that cup of coffee from that CEO, but at least my wife did.
Chris Cefola, owner
Clarkstown Auto Lube
Valley Cottage, New York
Name-Brand vs. Off-Brand, Again
I wanted to take a moment to respond to Ms. Schmitt’s recent column in the National Oil and Lube News July 2015 issue titled “Name-Brand vs. Off-Brand Oils: a Service Offering Conundrum.” I am very disappointed that your column failed to provide the reader with a balanced opinion when comparing name-brand versus off-brand oils. The column presented information from a Shell representative and a college instructor, but failed to give the opportunity for an Independent Lubricant Manufacturer (ILMA) member to have a voice in your discussion.
While I do not disagree with most of your column, I do take issue with the implication that lubricants manufactured by “off-brand” companies, which I take to mean non-major oil companies or ILMA members, are of lesser quality.
There are many ILMA members that make exceptional products, including my company, Martin Lubricants, under the Unimark brand. We sell only API licensed products under the Unimark name and use the very same additive chemistries as the companies that are considered “name-brand” or “majors.” In fact, we even buy our base oil from the majors and source additive packages from some of their additive companies. The quality spectrum for API and dexos is so narrow that differences between any qualifying products are virtually nil.
The main difference between many ILMA members and the majors is that our organizations avoid a bunch of marketing and overhead costs allowing us to keep prices down. At Martin, we do not have a huge staff of technology people, multi-million dollar marketing budgets for TV ads or race teams. Instead, we pass those savings directly to our customers providing them a better value. They compromise nothing in terms of quality to save money.
Make no mistake, there are nefarious marketers and manufacturers in the oil business and there always has been. ILMA and its representatives work tirelessly to ensure our membership does not include any businesses who do not meet the standards and ideals set forth by the organization. Customers can and should ask questions about what goes into their vehicles and service providers should be honest with them. However, just because the label is not from a major does not necessarily mean it is not a quality product.
Vice-President Martin Lubricants
A Different Take on Oil Change Intervals
My name is Walter Rudd, and I am the category manager for the express lube division at Mister Car Wash. We operate 32 quick lubes across the country in several different markets and perform approximately 400,000 oil change services a year.
We recently performed an analysis to determine the oil change intervals of our customers. This was a bit tricky given our POS system and all the variables that could ultimately affect the data and results. We have a pretty sharp IT director who was able to provide information contrary to the numbers NOLN publishes on oil change intervals and which you site in your article (June 2015: 152, The Number That Busts the Biggest Myth of the 21st Century).
Although the interval gain seems to be slowing, we are still seeing it grow from year to year. In 2012, the average interval was 5,319, and in 2014, it was 5,897, an increase of more than 10 percent in three years. But the average really doesn’t tell the whole story. We were able to see how many of our customers visited our lube centers each year and discovered that 22 percent of our volume in 2014 had only two visits, with an average of 6,503 miles between visits. Only 8 percent came in three times, with an average of 5,695 miles between visits, and 3 percent came in four times. The percentage and number of customers visiting more than that drops significantly from there.
I do agree a significant contributor to lower car counts is a hyper-competitive automotive service market. The dealers are giving oil changes away, and several manufacturers are providing free maintenance for two to three years. I don’t think customers are as loyal as we would like and agree we could do a better job to create a more loyal customer base. But, I also think the oil life monitoring systems (OLMS) are very large contributors to interval extensions and are re-training customers on when they should change their oil. This, in my humble opinion, is going to ruin engines over time. Oils are being engineered better, and I am a firm believer in synthetic oil. However, even if the components that make up synthetic oil do not break down as quickly, the oil still gets dirty and can cause premature damage and wear inside the engine.
I don’t agree with the assessment that oil change intervals are not growing significantly and are not a big contributor to lower car counts. One of the reasons why quick lube operators aren’t reporting significantly higher intervals is because a vast majority of new vehicles are not coming to the lube centers because they get free service at the dealer. These customers — most driving OLMS equipped vehicles — are driving significantly more miles between oil changes simply because their vehicles are telling them they can go longer, and to get the free service at the dealer they have to wait until the light tells them they are due. The quick lube operators are seeing the non-dealer customers, some of which have not been re-trained by their car and/or dealer on the longer oil change interval. This is providing the industry with a false sense of the true interval between oil changes.
In the end, it is up to us to deliver an experience that is memorable — in a positive way — and create raving fans. When we fail to do that, we open the door for our customers to find an alternative, which in today’s competitive environment, isn’t difficult to do.
Express Lube Category Manager
Mister Hotshine Car Wash & Lube Centers
An Oil in the Front/Repair in the Back Problem
My shop — a Safe Lube Plus, in Reno, Nevada — is set up this way. Problem: To date, I have not been able to find a lube software program that will allow me to track and bill repair services separately.
For the sake of cost control, primarily labor but also parts need to be tracked differently as most of the time they need to be ordered for each repair. Also, a mechanic worth his salt is on a pay schedule that is much different than a lube tech’s wages. These are numbers I need to make sure one part of the business is not carrying the other.
My shop has three cash register/check outs. Try to find a lube software program built to handle more than one register! My present solution is a convoluted work around of the system I am using.
I hope your article will help wake up the software providers to the need for a system that can be used for more than one profit center. I have been asking for years.
Safe Lube Plus
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