Lube Demand Flags in Western Europe


Lubricant demand in Western Europe declined slightly in 2000, as a decrease in consumption of automotive products outweighed growth in the industrial segment, according to a report by EuropaLub.

The bottom line was a further reduction in the portion of the regional market claimed by automotive lubricants. Those products now account for 49 percent of total demand, said the report, which was presented last month to UEIL (the European Union of Independent Lubricant Companies). The report also showed that the automotive segment has shrunk despite increases in vehicle population and fuel consumption.

This trend is a result of improved lubricant performance allowing longer drain intervals, especially for commercial fleets, EuropaLub Secretary General Jean-Claude Dufour said during a telephone interview yesterday.

EuropaLub collects information on lubricant consumption in the European Communitys 15 member nations. The total for 2000 was 4.9 million metric tons (5.4 million tons), down 0.7 percent from 1999. Demand for industrial lubricants increased 1.4 percent, to 1.8 million metric tons but consumption of automotive lubricants fell 1.7 percent, to 2.4 million metric tons.

The decrease in the automotive segment was mainly due to a 7.1 percent drop in engine oil consumption by commercial vehicles, to 956,000 metric tons. Passenger car engine oil consumption rose 2.4 percent, to 1.0 million metric tons.

Flagging demand for automotive lubricants is a well-entrenched trend in the region. Since 1990, Dufour said, the size of the segment has shrunk approximately 17 percent. During that period, he noted, the number of vehicles in the region grew more than 20 percent, consumption of motor fuels approximately 18 percent.

The explanation, I believe, is that more and more motorists are driving cars with diesel engines and that these go longer between oil changes, he said.

Dufour attributed the growth of the industrial segment to strong economic performance in 2000. In the long term, demand for industrial lubes has followed the same trend as the automotive segment, having fallen 13.9 percent since 1979. During the same period, demand for process oils grew 20.5 percent, to 716,000 metric tons.

The report did cite a divergence between the northern and southern portions of the region. Since 1995, total lubricant consumption in the northern countries decreased approximately 7 percent, while demand in the south grew approximately 5 percent.

Given the presiding trends, Dufour described 2000 as a good year for Europes lubricants industry.

Im afraid that this year may not be so good, he said.

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