Gulf Returns as Economy Brand


For the first time in a decade and a half, Gulf lubricants are returning to most of the United States, thanks to a new campaign that is heavy on e-commerce and light on traditional customer service.

Chevron (now ChevronTexaco Corp.), which has not used the brand since acquiring Gulf Oil in the mid-1980s, has reintroduced it as a cost-saving line. Officials say they will sell Gulf lubes primarily through a dedicated website and that the business will have only limited staff of traditional customer service reps.

Were focusing on the more price-sensitive end of the market, said John Cerveny, sales and marketing manager of Gulf Lubricants Co. These are still quality products. But by streamlining on things such as our sales force, we think we can offer something to people who are not necessarily looking for a lot of value-added services.

Gulf Lubricants was launched over the summer as a pilot project selling to a limited number of customers in the Houston area. Cerveny said it is now expanding to serve most of the country. For the moment, it does not plan to enter 11 northeastern states, where American Refining Group Inc. supplies Gulf lubricants under a licensing agreement. Gulf Oil International holds the rights to the Gulf name outside of the United States.

Chevron officials concluded that the Gulf name was still worth using.

We did a lot of research early on and it turns out that the Gulf brand name still has a ton of equity, especially in some parts of the country, Cerveny said.

ChevronTexaco is pitching Gulf as a more economical line than its other lubricants brands. The website,, emphasizes the message of low prices. For starters, it takes the rare step of posting prices for motor oils, gear oils, transmission and hydraulic fluids and greases. It also offers volume discounts and buyers club membership. The site also provides information such as quotes on freight costs.

It gives people another alternative to fit their own needs, Cerveny said. If they need a higher level of service, they can certainly get that with Chevron products. If they know what they want and they know they dont want any advice or assistance, this gives them another option.

Being operated separately from ChevronTexacos other lubricants business, Gulf Lubes is now in the process of expanding its own supply, blending and distribution network. While doing so, Cerveny acknowledged, it may turn down orders from some parts of the country. By early 2003, he hopes to have the nation blanketed.

Officials with American Refining, based in Bradford, Pa., say Gulf Lubes has kept them apprised of its plans and that the organizations are discussing the possibility of cooperating in the future.

Were thinking about linking websites and its possible that we could serve as their supplier in this area of the country, President and Chief Operating Officer Harvey Golubock said. Their model emphasizes a different level of e-commerce while ours provides more technical service. I think the market will determine which of those models is more successful.

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