30 Years of NOLN, 2011-2015

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We’ve already reflected on almost every year of National Oil & Lube News’ existence. Let’s finish strong with the last five years, 2011-2015.

2011

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Rolling in the Deep,” by Adele

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson

• Super Bowl Champs: Green Bay Packers

•World Series Champs: St. Louis Cardinals

• NBA Champs: Dallas Mavericks

• Occupy Wall Street movement took the streets of New York

In 2011, most operators could agree dropping car counts and rising costs across the board would make it hard to be profitable and many unknowns would affect the industry.

“Labor costs, the unknowns of ‘Obamacare’ and increasing costs of goods are some of the issues facing our industry right now,” said Karn Jilek of JK Lube in Fargo, North Dakota. “We are facing a lot of unknowns in the next couple of years.”

Another issue facing the industry that made most operators nervous was improved government regulations.

“The EPA is required, under the terms of a lawsuit it lost, to issue final regulations, some of which include how used oil is to be handled,” said Pat Wirth, operator of Potomac Falls Express Lube & Car Wash in Potomac Falls, Virginia. “If we are unsuccessful at getting Congress to put pressure on the EPA to revisit some of those proposed regulations, it could mean the end of the oil recycling chain as we know it. All of us could be paying to have our waste oil hauled away to fewer end users, and none of us would be able to continue to use our waste-oil heaters to warm our shops. The worst-case scenario is the proposed regulations become final. Our industry will have to fight to get them overturned. Stay tuned.”

With stronger operators buying out the weaker competitors, many operators compared the industry to what Darwin predicted.

“We feel the industry is improving,” Jilek said. “A lot of people are having better years because of addition through subtraction. The stronger players have worked hard to get better, and the weaker players in many cases are no longer competition.”

Most operators believe the year 2011 will be mostly good.

“I believe 2011 is going to be a great year,” said Brad Phillips, general manager of Express Care in Lubbock, Texas. “With the coming of dexos and the addition of DEF, we will have added opportunities to take advantage of. If you want to keep up in 2011, you will have to join the technology craziness.”

The annual Tops in the Industry list finally changed with some shifts in the Top 10. Jiffy Lube assumed its No. 1 position, as it has every single year of the ranking’s history, with 1,963 total operating stores.

The other four of the top five had all switched. Valvoline Instant Oil Change took the No. 2 place. Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change fell into the No. 3 position. Kwik Kar moved into place No. 4, and Havoline fell into No. 5.

The annual Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA) Convention and Fast Lube Expo found its way to Dallas, Texas. The four-day event attracted a crowd of more than 800 industry operators and attendees.

The Operator Survey reported the average fast lube manager had been employed for 6.8 years. The average cost of a basic lube, oil and filter (LOF) was $35.03; average number of cars serviced per day was 30.5, an decrease from 31.7 in 2010; average oil change interval was 4,520 miles; average hourly rate for a technician was $9.75; and 54 percent of cars were equipped with an oil monitor.

Kevin Davis, COO and president of Kentucky-Based Fast Change Lube and Oil, was awarded as the 2011 Operator of the Year.


2012

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Somebody That I Used To Know,” by Gotye feat. Kimbra

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “The Avengers,” starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo and Scarlett Johansson

• Super Bowl Champs: New York Giants

• World Series Champs: San Francisco Giants

• NBA Champs: Miami Heat

• Gangnam Style made its debut in June

In the first month of 2012, operators shared their opinions on what challenges and issues they thought would most concern the industry in the upcoming year. In the interviews, most operators agreed with the fact there would not be any new challenges or even any extremely difficult challenges, just small challenges the industry has faced for years.

In 2012, operators predicted there would be a trend continuing from last year — the trend of fewer operators with more stores as well as a consolidation of those not willing to be absorbed by those who try to absorb them, as well as prices increasing.

One of the operators interviewed believed the lack of unification is one of the main challenges facing the industry.

“The fast lube industry does not function as one solid industry and must come together to be able to provide a strong, unified voice when legislative and regulator issues affect us or in combating the continuous assaults from the OEMs and dealers,” Wirth said. “At one time there may have been proprietary information that different fast lube groups wanted to protect, but the evolution of our industry now demands we work together.”

No surprise, the Tops in the Industry survey reported Jiffy Lube was still No. 1, despite a decline in total operating stores. Valvoline held on to the No. 2 spot, and Pennzoil-10 Minute Oil Change managed its hold on the No. 3 position.

There was no AOCA convention held this year.

The annual Operator Survey unwrapped the state of the industry. The average fast lube was located in a city with a population center where 20,317 people lived within a three-mile radius and had 9.1 other lube facilities. Average cost of a basic LOF was $36.20; the average ticket total was $58.07; average car count was 31.4; the number of operators that drug tested employees had dropped to 40 percent from 66 percent; and the average number of hours of training a technician receives a year is 32.

Jimmy Grant, owner of East Ridge Fast Lube in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was named the 2012 Operator of the Year.


2013

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Thrift Shop,” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson

• Super Bowl Champs: Baltimore Ravens

• World Series Champs: Boston Red Sox

• NBA Champs: Miami Heat

• The federal government shut down for 16 days in October

The year 2012 proved to be difficult for many operators. The quote by Vince Lombardi seemed to come to mind when talking to a few operators: “The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.”

A few operators agreed once again, the same few issues that have faced the industry will continue taking out weaker links in the chain, but the strong will survive and make 2013 a prosperous year.

“I honestly see 2013 being a good year for us. I think there will be continued growth and stabilization for other stores that have been flat… It is absolutely imperative for us to do a better job than we have ever done before to win the loyalty of the customer. Because when the economy eventually comes back — and someday it will — we will be the last ones standing,” said Chuck Wynkoop, owner of Express Oil Change & Service Center in Dothan, Alabama.

The economy was on everyone’s mind.

“With roughly 23 million people out of work, they’re not concerned about getting their oil changed,” said Bill Kirksey, owner of Shell Rapid Lube in Lakewood, Colorado. “They’re worried about putting bread on the table, where their next meal is coming from and trying to find work. The economy has just killed us.”

Although the future looked rocky, most operators knew if they could make it through the next year, it would be much better.

The same suspects held the No. 1, Jiffy Lube; No. 2, Valvoline Instant Oil Change; and No. 3, Pennzoil-10 Minute Oil Change, spots on the 2008 Tops in the Industry list after the upset not too long ago.

After a 20-month hiatus, the AOCA’s annual convention, the International Fast Lube Expo, returned. The event was held at the Nashville Convention Center and included many speakers and educational workshops including a New Owners Workshop that taught new owners some tips on how to run an efficient shop and business.

According to the 2013 Operator Survey, the average cost of a basic LOF was $37.95; average ticket total was $65.78, following the trend of increasing every year; the average number of cars serviced per day dropped to 37.8 from 39.4; and the average length of employment for managers was 7.1 years and 2.6 years for technicians. The best-selling add-on was air filter replacement at 57 percent.

Adam Sturdivant, director of operations of Odessa, Texas-based Avis Lube, received the 2013 Operator of the Year award.


2014

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller

• Super Bowl Champs: Seattle Seahawks

• World Series Champs: San Francisco Giants

• NBA Champs: San Antonio Spurs

• The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was all the rage

In 2014, the same daunting issues seemed to plague the industry. With extended intervals and legislation, operators had plenty to talk about.

“Extended drain intervals are causing us to have to find additional service to do per car. People aren’t changing their oil as often as they used to. To combat this, we have been having to look at what other services we can get into,” said Nick Vuko, general manager of Quick Nick’s Snappy Lube in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Legislation, including the Affordable Care Act, impacted the quick lube industry. The legislation was a source of contention for businesses both large and small. The quick lube industry was no different.

“I think with all of the legislation coming out it makes it tougher and tougher for the small business to stay on top of things,” said Ron Morrow, general manager of Grease Monkey in Longmont, Colorado. “I have over 100 employees, and with the healthcare bill that has been extended out to 2015, I need to make some big decisions on how I am going to deal with that.”

The top five fast lube chains remained the same from the previous year on the Tops in the Industry list, with Jiffy Lube at No. 1, Valvoline Instant Oil Change at No. 2 and Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change coming in at No. 3.

AOCA held its annual convention and trade show in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 2014, the annual Operator Survey surveyed more than 3,000 fast lube facilities and reported the average cost of a basic LOF was $35.33; ticket average was $71.02; 95 percent of respondents drug tested their employees and the average cars serviced per day was 35.5.

Tom Chambasain, owner of Super-Lube in Tallahassee, Florida, earned the title of 2014 Operator of the Year.


2015

Memorable Moments

• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Jurassic World,” starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson and Judy Greer

• Super Bowl Champs: New England Patriots

• World Series Champs: Kansas City Royals

• NBA Champs: Golden State Warriors

• Blue Bell Ice Cream was recalled due to a listeria outbreak

In 2015, there were two issues facing the lube industry: employee retention and communication.

 “I think one of the biggest issues is going to be employee retention,” said Jimmy Grant, president of AOCA. “More jobs are becoming available. People are going to go where they can to make more money regardless of the job they are doing.”

In 2015, a new topic operators must talk about with their customers becomes apparent.

“The newer cars that are coming out, a lot are requiring full synthetic oil,” Grant said. “The communication between the lube tech and the owner of the vehicle, telling them specialty oils are required for their specific vehicle, will be highly important.”

The 2015 Tops in the Industry came with no real shocks or upsets to the industry. No surprise, Jiffy Lube led the way as the nation’s largest fast lube chain with a total of 1,928 open facilities. Valvoline Instant Oil Change and Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change held spots No. 2 and No. 3.

AOCA took its convention to Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Dennis Snow, an employee of Disney World for over 20 years, was the keynote speaker for the event. He spoke about the best ways to deal with customers from his Disney experiences.

The 2015 Operator Survey reported operators were only changing oil in an average of 29.6 cars per day but ticket totals were on the rise. The average ticket total was $69.01, and the average number of miles between oil changes was 4,858. The average cost of a basic LOF was $38.58.

 The fast lube industry continued to provide great service through the trials of 2010-2015. Thanks for coming down memory lane with us, and we look forward to another 30 years with you!

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