30 Years of NOLN, 1996-2000

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We’ve looked back at the first 10 years of National Oil & Lube News (NOLN) in the most recent July and August issues but the industry didn’t stop in 1995. The late ’90s to the first year of the new millennium were defining moments for music, movies, politics and of course — the oil change industry. Operators were looking forward to growth and navigating how to best handle new competition. Here’s a glimpse back to the years 1996-2000. See if anything jogs your memory.

1996

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “One Sweet Day,” by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Independence Day,” starring Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum and Randy Quaid

• Super Bowl Champs: Dallas Cowboys

• World Series Champs: New York Yankees

• NBA Champs: Chicago Bulls

• The “Macarena” was the hot dance move.

Operator’s predicted the growth of prior years would continue in 1996.

“I don’t see any major changes occurring in 1996. I believe the industry will continue to grow, with the rate of consolidations, buyouts, mergers, etc., maintaining a similar pattern,” said Bill Kent of Kent Lubrication Centers in Midland, Texas.

Terry Small of Five Coastal Lube Stores in Vista, California, said he foresaw the industry only getting bigger, too.

“More growth. More competition. More consolidation of the largest players in the industry,” Small said.

With quick lube stores on the rise, Kenneth Barber, manager of Installed Marketing for Texaco Lubricants Co. predicted the continued decline of do-it-yourself motor oil sales would encourage branded motor oil suppliers to become more aggressive in the installed market. He also expected stricter environmental regulations to accelerate the fast lube industry’s growth.

The annual “Tops in the Industry” list included 68 fast lubes. Jiffy Lube remained in its No. 1 position with 481 independent/company-owned stores and 731 franchised locations for a total of 1,212 stores. Pennzoil 10 Minute Oil Change jumped on the scene in second place and Texaco Xpress Lube snagged third.

It was noted, there were a significant number of changes in the rankings in the “Fast Lube” category in 1996, but many of the changes resulted from a change in the way NOLN calculated rankings than because of industry-shaking developments.

“This year in an effort to more accurately portray the industry’s numbers, NOLN has included companies in the “Fast Lube” ranking that last year were listed on the “Fast Lubes Operating Under Specific Signage” chart.

Even though some companies dropped in the rankings because of NOLN’s changes, nearly half of the companies listed in 1995 reported growth in their numbers and facilities.

The 9th annual Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) convention was a big success. A total of 2,246 attendees showed up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, an increase of over 50 percent from 1995.

The Operator Survey results reflected consequences of the growth. The survey reflected slightly lower net profits and car counts while competition was on the rise. The average number of fast lubes within three miles increased from 2.6 in 1995 to 3.7 in 1996. However, the biggest change was in the “other oil change facilities within three miles” category. There was a 3.6-unit increase in 1996 shooting from 7.6-units to 11.2-units industry wide.

The average cost of a basic lube, oil and filter (LOF) was $25.63; average number of cars serviced was 45.5; average hourly rate for a technician was $6.16; and 53 percent of respondants used direct mail coupons for advertising.

Scotti Lee, founder and owner of Oil Change Express in New Castle, Delaware, and vice president on the AOCA Board of Directors, was named the 1996 Operator of the Year.


1997

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Un-Break My Heart,” by Toni Braxton

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Titanic,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Bill Paxton and Bernard Hill

• Super Bowl Champs: Green Bay Packers

• World Series Champs: Florida Marlins

• NBA Champs: Chicago Bulls

• Princess Diana was killed in a speeding motorcade crash in Paris, France.

The year 1997 proved to be a challenging one for the fast lube industry. A strong economy meant unemployment rates were low and quality employees were tough to find. Competition began to affect car counts, and the word diversity became a buzzword around the industry. For the customer, diversity meant more stores to choose from. For the operator, it meant offering more services to meet the customer’s needs and set themselves apart from the competition.

Automotive technology was also becoming more complicated. Some operators embraced the change, and others stuck to what they knew.

“I have heard lube operators complaining that cars are becoming so complex you can’t diagnose problems. I try to stick to oil changes,” said Craig Nelson, a Jiffy Lube operator in Chicago, Illinois.

This year, AOCA chose to hold their 10th annual expo in Nashville, Tennessee. The speakers included Jaime Escalante, the inspiration behind the film, “Stand and Deliver,” and Frank Thompson whose talk was titled, “Management, Disney Style.” More than 2,000 members attended, and 124 exhibitors showcased their products and services.

Jiffy Lube held onto their No. 1 spot on the Tops in the Industry list. They had 550 independent/company-owned stores and 852 franchised stores, for a total of 1,402. Pennzoil 10 Minute Oil Change and Texaco Xpress Lube also stood their ground and stayed No. 2 and No. 3.

For the Operator Survey, the first thing that jumped out was the breakdown between independent and franchised shops. Sixty-six percent of fast lube operations in the less than 30 stores bracket were independent and 34 percent were franchised — a significant change from the 83/17 split in 1996. NOLN attributed one possible factor for this change to be because of more independents being acquired by larger fast lube operations.

Average cost of a basic LOF was $23.92; average break-even car count was 28.6; average number of cars serviced was 44.9; average hourly rate paid to technicians was $6.44; and 61 percent of respondents used the radio for advertising.

Bob Bridgeman, owner and operator of the LUBEx-press chain located in central and northern New Jersey was awarded the 1997 NOLN Operator of the Year title.


1998

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Something About The Way You Look Tonight,” by Elton John

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Saving Private Ryan,” starring Tom Hanks, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Jeremy Davies and Matt Damon

• Super Bowl Champs: Denver Broncos

• World Series Champs: New York Yankees

• NBA Champs: Chicago Bulls

• MP3s were created.

The big bad wolf of the oil change industry (the extended oil change interval) reared its ugly head in 1998. Operators said it was the single biggest issue facing the oil change industry. Those who feared the effects combatted it by agreeing continued customer education was not only necessary but critical.

“Customers must be made aware of the dangers of extending their oil drain intervals,” said Randy Todd, operator of two Lube-It stores in the New York City area.

Sue Ackley, operator of three Texaco Xpress Lubes in St. Louis, Missouri, and Bob Clements, operator of 15 Wonder Lube stores in Wisconsin weren’t worried.

“The conservative Midwest has been taught 3,000–mile intervals for so long that it will take time for east/west coast influences to affect their thinking,” Clements said.

Ackley echoed Clements thoughts.

“The oil change intervals issue hasn’t affected us. I don’t think most people here know about it,” Ackley said.

But extended drain intervals weren’t the only subject top-of-mind in ’98 as acquisitions and growth of the larger chains became more prevalent.

“While concern about the extended drain interval will prevail, we will also see acquisition and conversion opportunities for the larger players as independents opt to exit the industry,” said Jim Wheat, Jiffy Lube president.

Once again, Jiffy Lube, Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change and Texaco Xpress Lube finished one, two and three on the year’s Tops in the Industry list.

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.

The 11th annual AOCA Convention and Fast Lube Expo in Phoenix, Arizona, was nothing short of excellent. The events included a golf tournament, a Pinnacle Peak evening and speakers Frank Meeks, Don Taylor, David Barram and Kerry Johnson.

According to the 1998 Operator Survey, the average cost of a basic LOF was $24.51; average ticket total was $35.89; average number of cars serviced per day was 42.3; and the average length of employment for managers was 4.1 years and 0.9 years for technicians.

Al Chance, operator of the ExpressWay chain of stores in New York and Connecticut, was named the 1998 Operator of the Year.


1999

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “I’m Your Angel,” by R. Kelly

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace,” starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman

• Super Bowl Champs: Denver Broncos

• World Series Champs: New York Yankees

• NBA Champs: San Antonio Spurs

• John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a tragic plane crash.

NOLN headlines in 1999 boomed with the news of the Pennzoil-Quaker State merger. Operators watched as they combined into one giant fast lube chain with more than 2,200 stores, but that number wouldn’t go into effect until the next year.

The Tops in the Industry rankings had 74 companies on this year’s list, with two new ones accounting for 6,037 stores in total.  No surprise, Jiffy Lube, Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change and Texaco Xpress Lube rose to their usual rankings. Valvoline Instant Oil change was among the most active large corporate fast lube chains, adding 46 stores and totaling 581 facilities. They rounded out the top five behind Utah based, Q-Lube.

AOCA held its annual trade show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Attendance at the 1999 show was more than 1,100, with an expo-record of 175 exhibitors.

Per the 1999 Operator Survey, the average cost of a basic LOF was $24.18; ticket average was $32.55; 63 percent of respondents vacuum customers’ cars; average cars serviced per day was 41.6; and the average annual salary paid to a manger was $28,721.

In 1999, Dan Mason, operator of The Oil Can in South Carolina, was recognized as the Operator of the Year because of his work with AOCA and dedication to industry education initiatives.


2000

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Smooth,” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “The Grinch,” starring Jim Carrey

• Super Bowl Champs: St. Louis Rams

• World Series Champs: New York Yankees

• NBA Champs: Los Angeles Lakers

• Richard Hatch won $1,000,000 on the first season of CBS show, “Survivor.”

When quick lube operators looked to the future in 2000, they were concerned about similar issues as years past: consolidation, extended oil drains, customer service, lack of quality employees and increasing competition.

The Tops in the Industry marked changes in the industry in 2000. The survey reported a store-growth rate of 3.5 percent, which was down from the 5 percent growth-rate in 1999 and the 7.5 percent growth-rate in 1998. This was attributed primarily to the amount of competition in the market place.

Still, Jiffy Lube remained No. 1 and as expected, grew by 35 percent as a result of a merger. Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil change and Texaco Xpress Lube stayed in their respective two and three spots. There were 69 companies on the fast lube list.

Jiffy Lube wasn’t the only company seeing growth, however. American LubeFast grew 433 percent, Oilstop grew 88 percent and SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-up and Star Lube opened new facilities.

AOCA took their 13th convention to Atlanta, Georgia. The theme was “Get on the Fast Track,” and that’s just what the 2,500 attendees did. The event kicked off in traditional AOCA style with a golf tournament to support the AOCA scholarship fund.

The Operators Survey reported the average wage for a lube tech jumped to $7.36, marking the single-largest increase in lube tech pay recorded during the 13-year history of the survey. The average fast lube manager’s salary increased to $31,000.

However, higher salaries didn’t increase longevity for lube techs. The average lube tech stayed on the job only 1.9 years.

 Ticket totals averaged $35.25, and 68 percent of lube operators offered an upscale oil change priced at $36.37. The average cost of a basic LOF was $24.71.

The October issue included an article titled, “Consumer Reports Rates Lubes,” which tackled a quote from Consumer Reports magazine stating, “You needn’t use your car-dealer’s shop to keep your new-car warranty intact. Should a problem arise, you normally have only to prove the work was done at the recommended interval — something you can do with an itemized receipt from any (service facility).”

Shederick Fowlks, co-owner and operator of two Texaco Xpress Lubes, was named the 2000 Operator of the Year.


As the fast lube industry entered a new millennium, we embarked on a new era of business. Check out the October issue to see what went on from 2001 to 2006 as we continue to look into our 30-year history.

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