Automakers Turn Up Heat on API


Automakers have again requested a revamped engine oil development process — one where they hold all the reins in setting needs, deadlines and limits — and are asking the American Petroleum Institute to respond before year’s end.

The International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC), which represents U.S. and Japanese automobile and diesel engine manufacturers, first presented its bid to change the oil development process almost a year ago. It did so because of dissatisfaction with the development of GF-3 passenger car engine oils, and primarily their two-year delay in reaching commercial service.

ILSAC’s original proposal had two key points. First, the need for a new oil would be decided solely by ILSAC and not by an inter-industry task force, as was the case for GF-3. Second, test limits would be set solely by ILSAC, not by ASTM Committee D-2 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants, which served that function for GF-3. API had hoped to modify these proposals and retain some role in these areas for other industry bodies.

On Nov. 5, Mike McMillan of General Motors presented ILSAC’s modified position to API’s Lubricants Committee. Its core provisions were no different from ILSAC’s earlier proposal. In addition, it emphasized a few other conditions. In setting the need and timing for any new technical standard, ILSAC wants to have at least 50 percent input (translation: control). Also, if a stalemate occurred in setting test limits, ILSAC would have the tie-breaking vote. Further, ILSAC said, demonstration oils are the responsibility of the oil industry, and lack of a suitable demonstration oil cannot be used as a barrier to the new category.

ILSAC is also firmly insistent that no other process impediments, such as funding of industry test matrices, can be used as a barrier. Footdragging by anyone could trigger ILSAC’s option to proceed unilaterally.

ILSAC reiterated its support for an engine oil licensing program including a customer-friendly mark as well as an aftermarket audit program.

API’s Lubricants Committee debated ILSAC’s proposal behind closed doors, not in open session as in all previous cases. It is now conducting a straw poll pointing toward a decision next month, in time to meet the automakers’ deadline of Dec. 31.

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