Slow Start for France’s Lube Sales

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Slow Start for France’s Lube Sales
A look down the famous Avenue des Champs Elysees in Paris France as seen from the Arc de Triomphe. © Ken Felepchuk

France’s lubricant consumption fell by more than 10% in in January, compared to the same month in 2020, ending a streak of five consecutive months of lubricant sales topping year-earlier results.

According to the Professional Lubricants Center’s latest statistics, lubricant sales in France declined 11% to 43,078 metric tons in January, down from 48,595 tons.

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Sales of automotive lubricants in the month decreased 5% to 22,864 tons. Meanwhile, sales in the industrial segment – not including process oils – dropped 18% to 14,797 tons. Process oil volumes slid 15% to 5,417 tons.

Demand for engine oils in passenger cars declined 9% to 12,748 tons. Sales of engine oils used in commercial vehicles edged down 1% to 4,425 tons. Among automotive lubricants, one of the few categories showing growth was automatic transmission fluids, up 4% at 739 tons.

Within the industrial segment, hydraulic oils were down 9% at 5,763 tons, and industrial greases dropped 18% to 1,362 tons. Categories showing growth included compressor lubricants, which increased 11% to 255 tons.

Lubricant sales in France had finished 2020 strong after a challenging period of several months. Based on revised figures, the country’s market began 2020 by running ahead of 2019 in January and February. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck Europe, triggering the most stringent countermeasures. From March through May, lube demand in France ran 10%, 38% and 24% behind the same months of 2019. Monthly volume bottomed out in April at 29,419 tons.

Sales ranged from 9%-15% higher than 2019 for six of the final seven months of 2020, the exception being July, when demand was down 1% year to year. France is the second-largest lubricant market in Western Europe, following Germany.