Feds Demand Prompt GF-4 Rollout


In a March 2 Dear Manufacturer letter to auto companies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made clear its position on GF-4 motor oils: If automakers expect to base fuel-economy claims for their 2005 model year vehicles on GF-4 oils, theyd better ensure that oils meeting this newest specification are widely available when their new cars hit the road.

Previously, EPA approved the automakers fuel economy claims based on GF-3 motor oils, which were first licensed in 2001. It later heard from several stakeholders that not all segments of the oil service sector were aware of the need to use those oils, particularly the 5W-20 grade. The stakeholders were the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association (ILMA) and the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA). Each group documented deficiencies in the supply chain early in GF-3s launch.

AOCA pointed to the widespread unavailability of GF-3 5W-20 oil at many quick-lube outlets. In some cases, it said, these outlets couldnt obtain bulk deliveries of 5W-20 from their distributors for several months. Instead, they were forced to buy quart bottles of 5W-20 from auto dealerships, at substantially increased prices. Not until the first quarter of 2003, more than two years after GF-3 was approved, was the product distributed in bulk to many fast lubes, said AOCA.

Seeking to prevent a recurrence of this imbalance, EPAs March 2 letter instructs vehicle manufacturers to obtain commitments prior to the start of 2005 production, from major and independent marketers of passenger car motor oils that they will manufacture GF-4 engine oils of all specified viscosity grades in sufficient quantity to meet demand in all segments of the oil services/supply network – including quick-lubes.

Vehicle manufacturers are to plan for an effective rollout of GF-4 motor oils prior to production of 2005 vehicles. That will include consultation with all principal oil service providers from dealers to quick oil change facilities to auto repair service providers to the major retailers servicing the do-it-yourself market segments, EPA said.

The EPA action is a change from GF-3, and resulted from ILMAs and AOCAs successful efforts to bring the issue of marketplace availability to EPAs attention.

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