ILMA: Auto Makers Will Postpone GF-4


American and Japanese automakers have decided to delay adoption of GF-4, the next passenger car motor oil upgrade, according to the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association.

The association told members Monday that the International Lubricant Standardization and Approval Committee decided last week that it cannot develop the standard fast enough to have GF-4 oils commercially available by the fall of 2003. The standard, prescribed to protect emissions control systems required on model year 2004 cars, figured to be the biggest engine oil upgrade since the auto and oil industries wrote the Engine Oil Licensing and Certification System in 1993.

It was widely recognized, however, that the 30-month timeline for developing GF-4 was very aggressive, with some observers expressing skepticism that ILSAC could meet it. Lesser upgrades have taken up to seven years to complete.

A spokeswoman for ILSACs administrative umbrella, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, refused to confirm or deny the report, which was e-mailed tomembers of the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association.ILSAC member representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Jeff Leiter, legal counsel for the lubricant manufacturers association, said the delay was agreed to after a General Motors representative told an ILSAC meeting early last week that the committees timeline for GF-4 was not practical.

He went into the meeting and told people that they needed a reality check, Leiter said. He said it was just not going to be possible to do GF-4 for the 2004 model year. ILSAC members then held a conference call at the end of the week during which they agreed to delay the specification, he said.

ILMA officials said they did not know the specific reason for the delay and that ILSAC members plan to meet July 9 to set a new schedule and to draft a statement explaining their decision.

More than one significant obstacle for GF-4 has been identified. Perhaps the biggest challenge is the question of whether formulators can develop a motor oil that protects new emissions control devices (and meets other stated goals of improving gas mileage, offering better cold-temperature performance and lasting longer under high temperatures and high loads) while protecting engines in existing cars. Automakers have insisted that GF-4 be backward compatible. Oil and additive companies have said that may not be possible or practical.

Another challenge – development of a new test to measure oil oxidation and engine wear – was discussed at last weeks ILSAC meeting, according to Leiter. ILSAC had said it wanted to beginmatrix testing of the GM-sponsored IIIG engine sequence test in August, but members are still working to identify funds and will not be able to start testing until fall or winter.

Leiter said it is difficult to say if a delay in implementation of GF-4 will benefit the lubricant industry. On the one hand, manufacturers might be relieved to have more time to prepare for such a large change. On the other, automakers have previously warned that they might abandon EOLCS and develop their own motor oil specifications if they believed the cooperative system could not meet their schedule.

Related Topics

Market Topics