At API, Motor Oil Really Matters


ORLANDO, Fla. – The American Petroleum Institute is on the verge of launching a national motor oil quality program to educate industry and consumers, license oil distributors and installers, and encourage state regulators to require the same disclosures for bulk oil as for bottled oil.

Kevin Ferrick, manager of APIs Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System, told the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association annual meeting here last week that API has transformed Shells Motor Oil Matters program into an industry-wide, non-brand-specific campaign.

The goals, said Ferrick, are to educate marketers, distributors and installers on the importance of oil quality; identify quality motor oils from the point of manufacture to installation; give credibility to the marketers, distributors and installers making and handling quality oils; explain how quality oils limit or prevent liability claims; and identify off-spec oils in the market.

MOM is a three-part program, Ferrick continued. A public relations and education campaign, aimed first at marketers, distributors and installers, and then consumers, is the first part. Distributor and installer licensing is part two, and part three is working with state weights and measures agencies.

The campaign will start with the trade, said Ferrick. We will launch the web site with an API face and promote the MOM objectives to distributors and installers. The move to consumer education, he acknowledged, is a tough challenge. We need to work smart. APIs goal is to give consumers unbiased information on motor oil and explain how high quality oil protects engines and preserves warranties. For do-it-for-me [oil changers], we will demonstrate that off-spec oils are masquerading as quality oils.

Critical to Motor Oil Matters is a new program to license distributors and installers to a proposed new API standard 1525A, Bulk Engine Oil Chain of Custody and Quality Documentation. Ferrick anticipated that the draft standard will be ready for balloting in December. Distributors and installers will document brand, viscosity grade, and API performance level through the supply chain, and installers will provide brand, vis grade and performance level on printed customer receipts.

Just as bottles of API-licensed motor oils today carry APIs engine oil quality marks (the donut and starburst), licensed distributors and installers will sport their own API-licensed marks.

API will expand its aftermarket audit program to cover licensed distributors and auditors and will publish lists of licensed distributors and installers on the MOM web site. The expanded licensing program was developed in cooperation with distributors and installers, said Ferrick. Installers asked us to look at distributors, and distributors asked us to look at installers.

New to APIs motor oil licensing efforts will be a canceled-for-cause listing. Companies whose products are found to be nonconforming will be listed so consumers know which products to avoid, Ferrick said, adding that licensed marketers will be given the opportunity to address API findings before being listed.

The third prong of the MOM program is to help put some regulatory teeth in disclosure requirements, by encouraging the National Conference of Weights and Measures to revise publication NIST 130 to require that the same information that now must appear on motor oil bottles is available to bulk motor oil installers and consumers.

API is already sampling packaged and bulk oils, but we need revised NIST 130 language to more effectively enforce findings on bulk, Ferrick explained. Motor oil quality varies significantly, he said, and consumers deserve to know what they are buying. The only real way to do this is by knowing brand, viscosity and API performance.

API is hoping that NIST 130 can be revised effective July 2013 to require full disclosure of brand name, viscosity grade and performance level for bulk motor oil sales.

Were going to level the playing field, said Ferrick. With MOM, distributors, installers and consumers will understand that high-quality motor oils protect engines and warranties. They will be more aware of automakers recommendations and the importance of asking for vis grade and performance standards. Consumers will ask for quality oils and written proof of an oils vis grade, brand and performance standard.

MOM will help prevent deceptive trade practices and will allow more aggressive API product quality monitoring, Ferrick concluded. It will reward and identify those who are doing it right.

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