Valvoline Taps Recycled Oil Vein


Yesterday saw the official launch of Valvoline NextGen motor oils, a line of products made with 50 percent rerefined base oil that the company believes will resonate strongly with a broad swath of consumers.

Blair Boggs, the lubricant marketer’s vice president of global brands, called NextGen “the first national brand of motor oil” that is “50 percent recycled with 100 percent Valvoline protection.”

The lineup includes conventional, synthetic blend and high-mileage formulations that meet or exceed the new API SN and ILSAC GF-5 categories, pointed out Thom Smith, vice president of branded lubricant technology in Lexington, Ky. All are backed by the same engine protection guarantee – up to 300,000 miles – that its virgin-oil based products offer.

Fran Lockwood, senior vice president for research and development, said, “We have always tried to introduce a step up at each oil category upgrade.” In 2000, it was MaxLife, the groundbreaking oil for higher-mileage engines. In 2004, it was a new additive chemistry called HyperZDP, a low-phosphorus antiwear system that better protects catalytic converters. And now it’s a high-performance recycled engine oil, she said.

This launch came about because at last there is sufficient rerefining capacity and quality to meet Valvoline’s standards, Lockwood said, plus market research has shown consumers are finally ready to embrace a recycled engine oil.

Valvoline is not the first to attempt to tap this market vein though. Rerefiner Safety-Kleen, for example, introduced EcoPower engine oils several years ago, and since 2009 has built a network of distributors to sell its API-licensed engine oil. Safety-Kleen operates two rerefineries, in East Chicago, Ind., and Breslau, Ontario.

Likewise, Universal Lubricants has been signing up distributors for its Eco Ultra brand engine oils, made with API Group II base oils produced in its new Wichita, Kans., rerefinery. Eco Ultra engine oils are API licensed, and the brand also extends to hydraulic oils and transmission fluids. Other rivals also offer engine oils with varying amounts of rerefined oil content.

The participation of a heavyweight brand like Valvoline could mark a turning point in this market segment, however. In the past, consumers were reluctant to buy rerefined oils, but Valvoline research and test marketing suggests that Valvoline NextGen will be greeted with strong acceptance, Boggs said.

Test marketing of the recycled oil was done in retail stores and Valvoline Instant Oil Change quick lubes around Boston and Columbus, Ohio, Boggs said. “We got tremendous results, and it shows that consumers are ready for this.” Having the trusted Valvoline brand on a recycled oil product legitimized the concept, he said.

Asked if NextGen will appeal to “real guys” – a core demographic of do-it-yourselfers that Valvoline has courted – Boggs confessed he had expected to see a sharp split among those saying they would or would not buy it. Instead, “what blew us away was the broad acceptance we saw.” Consumer interest cut across all types of buyers he said, regardless of their age, geography or car type.

Boggs said the company is not at liberty to divulge the source of the rerefined oils it is using, but hinted that more than one supplier is involved.

U.S. supply of rerefined oils is finite, however, with just a handful of suppliers that use hydrotreating processes. According to Lubes’n’Greases magazine, such high-grade rerefiners account for only about 4 percent of North America’s total base oil capacity of 255,000 daily barrels. Still, Lockwood reiterated, “we do believe the volume is available that we need, at the quality needed for this product launch.”

The company will merchandise NextGen in bright green plastic containers, side-by-side with Valvoline’s familiar white ones, and the product will be priced at parity with regular Valvoline on store shelves. So consumers can expect to pay the same – not more – for being green, said Boggs. There’s no price penalty and no performance trade-off with NextGen, he asserted.

Where the product likely will cost slightly higher, he added, is in Valvoline Instant Oil Change centers, because at first they’ll probably have to carry it in drums or quart bottles, rather than bulk tanks, adding packaging costs to the equation. He said Valvoline will offer some kind of incentive to consumers to ease that cost as well, but declined to provide details.

Plans are for NextGen to be available on retail shelves starting in April, and it will be in 75 percent of Valvoline Instant Oil Change outlets by May.

Some hints of the product launch began to leak out earlier this year, but yesterday was NextGen’s formal unveiling to the press. Next, Boggs said, the company plans an “all in” marketing push, including all advertising media – television, print, radio and internet – and its NASCAR racing sponsorship. “This is our news for the year,” he declared.

Related Topics

Market Topics