OEMs Propose Global System for Specs

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A new automaker organization is proposing a global framework to develop industry performance specifications for lubricants and other fluids used in on-road vehicles, stating a desire to speed and streamline the work of current regional approaches.

The International Fluids Consortium aims to replace or consolidate frameworks currently run through pillar organizations such as ACEA, ILSAC, API and JASO, creating a system that is led by automakers and includes input from the lubricants industry but does not require its consensus to make decisions.

The new organization, which was to unveil its goals today during SAE International’s World Congress Experience Digital Summit, intends to develop specifications for lubricants and other fluids used in electric and hybrid vehicles as well as those running solely on gasoline and diesel.

“The IFC brings original equipment manufacturers, fluid manufacturers, marketers and fluid additive providers together globally to create an improved system for developing these critical fluid specifications to meet vehicle requirements,” Teri Kowalski, a principal engineer at Toyota, said in a press release issued by IFC today. “IFC’s work will harmonize specifications globally, improving productivity and performance while streamlining specification development and validation.”

Toyota is a founding member of the consortium, which was created in 2020. The press release did not identify other members or set out a timeline for developing specifications.

Performance specifications are one of the foundations of automotive lubricant markets around the world – especially for engine oils – offering consumers a way to identify products shown to meet the requirements of their vehicles. To share costs and avoid market fragmentation, automakers have used organizations such as the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA), the International Lubricant Specification Advisory Committee in North America and the Japanese Standards Organization to develop specifications that serve multiple brands of vehicles.

ILSAC works in tandem with the American Petroleum Institute to publish API specs. Development of JASO engine oil specs is led by the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association. Though developed first for their individual markets, these specifications are used worldwide.

These systems have been a source of growing frustration for more than a decade. Specs are written around bench and engine tests. The latter are much more expensive, and the number of engine tests has ballooned as performance requirements for engine oils became more difficult and as the number of requirements increased.

Increasing complexity has in some cases dragged out the amount of time taken to develop specs. The latest North American specs for light-duty vehicles – ILSAC GF-6A and GF-6B and their twin API SP – took eight years to bring to market compared to the original target of four. ACEA is still working toward adoption of an update to its sequences that was due in 2018.

Some, including IFC members, contend that development drags out partly because current processes require consensus of lubricant and lubricant additive companies as well as automakers. Companies in the lubricant industry argue that consensus helps ensure that specs are not only developed but implemented fairly.

In addition to reducing requirements for consensus, IFC says efficiencies could be gained by making specifications global rather than regional.

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