Quick lubes have been around for decades, promptly serving loyal customers and their cars. However, there wasn’t anything to help quick lubes learn how to better serve their customers, until 1986.
The minds of Steve Hurt and David Arrington came together and realized there was a need in the fast oil and lube industry — a need for the spread of industry information and solidarity. Thus, in July of that year, National Oil & Lube News (NOLN) was born.
What started out as a four-page, bimonthly, newspaper-style magazine has turned into a 68- to 100-page, highly stylized monthly publication.
With NOLN’s 30th anniversary impending, we decided to take a look back and reflect on how it all began and what the major topics of discussion were, five years at a time.
Starting with the first issue in 1986, we’ll work our way to the end of the beginning of a new decade, 1990. It’s time to hop in your DeLorean and travel back as we reminisce the beginnings of NOLN.
• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 list): “That’s What Friends are for,” by Dionne Warwick and Friends
• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Top Gun,” starring Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer and Kelly McGillis
• Super Bowl Champs: Chicago Bears (also the birth — and quick death — of the infamous Super Bowl Shuffle)
• World Series Champs: New York Mets (yes, seriously)
• NBA Champs: Boston Celtics
• Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated for the first time.
• Halley’s comet made an appearance. If you missed it, don’t worry. You only have to wait until 2062 for it to appear again.
When the premier July/August 1986 issue of NOLN hit quick lubes around the United States, its distribution was only 3,500 copies. The main article was titled, “ProntoLube Meets Market Challenge,” and featured ProntoLube of El Paso, Texas, ran by Hugo Bustamante Jr. and his unnamed partner.
The title of the letter from the publishers was, “We Did It!” It included this quote: “This publication will provide the ‘missing link’ of this industry. With your help, we can provide a chain of information everyone in the industry will benefit from.”
The September/October issue doubled in size, going from four pages to eight. It also featured its first full-page ad from Castrol.
The cover article was titled, “What ‘Makes’ an Oil Business?” and featured Tom Whennen, owner of ASAP Oil Exchange in the San Diego, California, area. This issue also introduced a “New Products” section, now known as “Products and Services.”
The final issue of the premier year of NOLN was chockfull of interesting tidbits. The cover article was an in-depth interview with Jerry Arrington, president of the Convenient Automotive Service Institute (CASI).
This issue mentioned Valvoline’s acquisition of Minnesota-based Rapid Oil Change, how underground storage tanks must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a few exceptions and featured the first “Letters to the Editor” section.
One of the letters, written by Tim LaGanke, president of The Lube Stop Inc. in Cleveland, Ohio, said, “Good luck! I hope you make it BIG. The oil change industry needs it!”
• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Walk Like an Egyptian,” by The Bangles
• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Three Men and a Baby,” starring Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson
• Super Bowl Champs: New York Giants
• World Series Champs: Minnesota Twins
• NBA Champs: Los Angeles Lakers
• The energy drink Red Bull first gave us wings.
In January 1987, NOLN transitioned from bimonthly to monthly. It still contained only eight pages. One notable article mentioned Texaco had opened its first lube center in Lubbock, Texas (the hometown of NOLN).
The April issue emphasized computers. Though today’s smartphones have more processing power than the computers pictured in the magazine, it solidifies the fact that technology has played a big role in the industry for quite some time.
The “First Annual Survey of the Top Ten,” which featured the top 10 independents and top 10 franchisors premiered in the May issue. This “Top Ten” list is now known simply as “Tops in the Industry,” but it includes U.S.-based foreign facilities, international chains and oil change-plus stores. The top independent was Valvoline Instant Oil Change and the top franchisor was Jiffy Lube.
Auto malls are all the rage — and all the worry — in the July issue. A 45,000 square foot auto mall located in Phoenix, Arizona, was the talk of the town. It included a glass shop, transmission repair, tire store, tune-up shop, stereo store, window-tinting store, upholstery repair shop, machine shop, auto paint supply, brake shop and a quick oil change center called The Oil Spout.
Back then, industry experts claimed there were around 200 auto malls nationwide and estimated there would be 2,000 by 1990.
Today, when I think of the term “auto mall,” all that comes to mind are used car dealerships that might offer repair services. I Googled the Arizona Automotive Center mentioned in this issue, and it still stands. However, I don’t think the trend caught on as much as people were expecting.
The September issue announced the birth of NAIL (the National Association of Independent Lubes). Benefits of NAIL included: volume discounts on inventory, reduced insurance rates, reduced advertising costs, seminars with top-quality speakers, mechanic hotline, video training tapes and personnel manuals. The first NAIL meeting was advertised and would be held on October 16 at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport Hyatt Regency. NAIL is now the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA).
The October issue announced the speakers for the first-ever NAIL meeting. The speakers included Joe Haggard, Tom Whennen and Andy Aicardi.
A recap of the CASI convention was also featured and noted that Dan Barnas of Oil Express National in Chicago, Illinois, would be the new president for 1988. It also highlighted results from the first-ever industry-wide CASI survey. Some of the results stated: 75 percent of all lube centers have been open for five years or less with 34.5 percent open one to three years and 16.9 percent open six months or less; the busiest month is July; the average employee stays two to four years; and the mean number of employees is 12 per store.
NAIL’s first seminar was a success, according to the November issue. Nearly 70 people attended the meeting. Haggard introduced his “feel good” theory, Whennen told attendees how to have a successful grand opening and Aicardi let operators know how they could increase their ticket averages. After the meeting, more than half the attendees joined NAIL.
• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Faith,” by George Michael
• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Rain Man,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise
• Super Bowl Champs: Washington Redskins
• World Series Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers
• NBA Champs: Los Angeles Lakers
• Nike introduced its “Just Do It” slogan.
• CDs outsold vinyl records for the first time.
The first NOLN survey was included in the February issue, marking the beginning of what is now NOLN’s yearly Fast Lube Operator Survey. There were 24 questions and a stamp was only $0.22.
In the March issue, NOLN revealed that more than 200 people attended NAIL’s first winter conference, quite the feat for a new organization. Haggard, Aicardi and Whennen all spoke again. Dave Quick of Fast Lube, Inc. in Goldsboro, North Carolina, gave a presentation on the compatibility of an automatic car wash and a fast lube operation. Jim Lunceford of Express Oil Change in Hammond, Alabama, spoke about the profitability of transmission services. Ken Juneau showed what kind of advertising communicated the best for the quick lube market. Dwayne Lynch, director of territorial sales for Jiffy Lube, gave a speech that touched on a variety of topics. George Dohn from Buffalo Tank Corporation gave a slideshow presentation on the pros and cons of different types of underground storage tanks. Even NOLN publisher, Steve Hurt, gave an informative and motivational speech.
The brand new SG motor oil rating was announced in the April issue. It stated the new motor oil would help further reduce oil sludge, engine wear and improve oxidation protection.
The results of the first NOLN survey were also revealed in April. The average cost of a basic oil change was $19.98; only 30 percent of respondents tracked their customers through a computer; average number of cars serviced per day was 43.5; summer was the busiest season; and the average rate paid to an employee was $4.68 an hour.
The “Top in the Fast Lube Industry” list was revealed in May. This year, NOLN expanded the survey to include operators with 10 or more facilities. Jiffy Lube claimed the No. 1 spot with 70 independent/company owned and 748 franchised locations for a total of 833.
NOLN made a bold prediction, claiming the lube industry would double by the end of 1988 to close to 8,000 centers nationwide.
The August issue featured an article titled, “The Fear of Computerization: Is It Well-Founded?” The fears included: concern with cost effectiveness; fear of the unknown; fear of slow downs; concern with education level/high turnover; and concern for workflow. It seems silly now, but since most of the population didn’t have a computer inside their phones, I’ll let it slide.
A recap of NAIL’s second summer conference in the September issue mentioned one of the favorite presentations was a panel discussion including Joe Haggard of Prolube, Tim LaGanke of Lube Stop and Dave Quick of Fastlube on “How to Build Repeat Business.” Also, the first board of directors for NAIL was elected. The board included Joe Haggard, Dave Quick, John Read, Tom Whennen, Dale Lewis and Bill Lowdermilk.
Pennzoil announced it had opened two stores in Europe, with plans to open a third location. The facilities were located in Zaandam, Netherlands; Antwerp, Belgium; and Wurzburg, West Germany.
CASI’s fifth conference was a major success with increased attendance, more exhibitors and higher quality programs, according to the October issue. Dan Barnas was re-elected as president of CASI for 1989.
Also in the October issue, Valvoline announced it would begin franchising under the Valvoline Instant Oil Change name, and the 1,000th Jiffy Lube location opened to great fanfare in Durham, North Carolina.
• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Look Away,” by Chicago
• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Batman,” starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger
• Super Bowl Champs: San Francisco 49ers
• World Series Champs: Oakland Athletics
• NBA Champs: Detroit Pistons
• “The Simpsons” made its televised debut.
• The Energizer Bunny hopped on the scene.
In the February issue, it was announced Oil Changers had purchased ASAP Oil Exchange in an all-cash transaction. Valvoline Instant Oil Change bought Kwik Kleen & Lube. Mobil Oil Corporation came on the scene by opening six outlets in the Dallas, Texas, area known as Lube Express.
In the March issue, The top fast lubes were ranked, with Jiffy Lube remaining king with 98 independent/company owned locations and 922 franchised locations for a total of 1,020. There were 35 companies represented this year, up eight from 1988. It was estimated that there were 6,200 quick lubes in the country.
A recap of the winter NAIL conference made note that there were 45 exhibitors and more than 450 people attended, including people from Puerto Rico and Kuwait, according to the April issue.
Starting in the May issue, NOLN was split into two separate parts, Section A and Section B. It stayed this way throughout the remainder of 1989 and 1990.
Also in May, Team Valvoline released a rad anti-drug campaign. Its slogan was, “People Who Know Say No to Drugs.” Representative Ike Skelton introduced the Used Oil Recycling Act (UORA) of 1989. It would prohibit the EPA from listing certain categories of used oil as hazardous waste.
An article titled, “Survivor’s Guide to Quick Lubes,” by Ed Henry of Changing Times magazine aggravated the fast lube industry and a call to action from NOLN was requested in the June issue.
In July NOLN reported, Indy Lube of Indianapolis, Indiana, completed 752 full service oil changes in seven hours at three locations. The funds raised went to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Pepsi and RAX Roast Beef treated volunteers, employees and guests to free drinks. Pennzoil donated door prizes, which included 20 remote controlled Mini-Indy 500 race cars.
Results from the second Fast Lube Survey were released in the August issue. There were 274 responses received from 42 states. The data revealed the following: the average cost of a basic oil and filter change was $20.82; average number of cars serviced per day was 43.5 (same as 1988); the average rate paid to an employee was $5.15 an hour.
The December issue covered a Jiffy Lube in Deer Park, New York, that set a new world record for most vehicles serviced in 24 hours. The store serviced 1,609 cars, beating the previous 1,144-car record set by the West Springfield, Massachusetts, Jiffy Lube by 465. The new record resulted in a $4,218 donation from Jiffy Lube to the Stony Brook University Hospital Burn Center.
• No. 1 Song of the Year (according to Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100): “Hold On,” by Wilson Phillips
• No. 1 Movie of the Year, per box office gross (according to Box Office Mojo): “Home Alone,” starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern
• Super Bowl Champs: San Francisco 49ers
• World Series Champs: Cincinnati Reds
• NBA Champs: Detroit Pistons
• Nelson Mandela was freed from a South African prison after 27.5 years.
In the February issue, NOLN named Joe Haggard and Art Lukowski the first-ever “Fast Lube Operators of the Year.” This recognition is now featured in NOLN’s December issue, and only one operator takes the coveted spot.
The annual “Tops in the Industry” revealed in the March issue, yet again, Jiffy Lube as the No. 1 chain with zero independent/company owned locations and 1,070 franchised locations. There were 53 companies on this year’s list, up 18 from 1989. Twenty-three of the 53 companies were new to the list.
An article in the April issue stated GM was launching a nationwide “Mr. Goodwrench Quick Lube Plus” program. The program guaranteed the service would be done in 29 minutes or less from the time of write-up, or the next Quick Lube Plus service was free.
The “Computerization Survey for the 90s” was the feature article of Section B in the June 1990 issue. Questionnaires were mailed to 5,500 lube centers and the results represented an 8 percent return. The survey focused on various elements of a quick lube, including current use of computers, factors influencing use of computers and future plans for computerization.
The results of the third annual Fast Lube Operators Survey were published in the August issue. The average cost of a basic oil change was $21.48; average number of cars serviced per day was 40.1; the average rate paid to an employee was $5.36 an hour; and 51 percent of respondents used a computer.
This was also the first time the survey was broken down into categories, which were operations, insurance, employees, services, sales, advertising, computers, responses and oil and equipment.
In October, Texaco announced it was launching a test program to make fast oil changes easier and more convenient for motorists by building 10 “Star Lube” single-bay oil change facilities at Texaco salaried-operated stations in Phoenix, Arizona, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In the December 1990 issue, Bill Simmons of Master Lube in Billings, Montana, was recognized as NOLN’s 1990 Operator of the Year, and SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune-Up opened its 100th store in Cumberland, Rhode Island, but celebrated nationwide.
This wraps up the first five years of NOLNs life. Though in its infancy, it was making a remarkable impact throughout the fast lube industry. Anticipate more flashbacks in upcoming issues as we continue to look back at the past 30 years.