Shell Rules the Fast-lube Roost


Shell Lubricants Pennzoil or Quaker State motor oils are listed as the house brand by 36 percent of smaller U.S. quick-lube operators, while Valvoline comes in second with 18 percent, according to a new study by National Oil & Lube News. Among larger operators Shell dominates; its Jiffy Lube, Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change and Shell Rapid Lube businesses together own or franchise nearly half the fast oil-change facilities in the category.

More than 300 U.S. fast-lube operators, accounting for over 4,400 stores – more than a quarter of the entire industry – responded to NOLNs 2005 Fast Lube Operators survey, published in the magazines September issue. NOLN divides the survey results into two categories: smaller independent fast-lube companies that operate fewer than 30 stores, and larger corporations operating more than 30 stores.

Asked about their bulk motor oil of choice, 30 percent of the smaller operators list Pennzoil as their house brand, and 6 percent list Quaker State. Other best-selling brands are Valvoline (18 percent), Castrol (10 percent), Mobil (9 percent), and Havoline (8 percent). Fifty-eight percent of the smaller operators say ExxonMobils Mobil 1 is their top selling synthetic motor oil brand.

Smaller operators spend an average of $5.46 per gallon for their highest volume bulk oil, up 17 percent from $4.66 in 2004. Large operators report an average cost of just $4.12 per gallon for their highest volume oil, the survey shows.

The average retail price for the standard lube, oil and filter change is $28.16 at the smaller operators, while the larger operators have broken the $30 barrier by 17 cents. Average ticket totals are higher, reflecting the fast lube industrys move into a wide range of automotive services: $43 for smaller operators and $54 for their larger competitors.

Yearly sales per store for the smaller companies average $467,500, NOLN reported, while the larger operators bring in $585,900 per store.

NOLNs report earlier this year on the top U.S. fast-lube chains showed that only about 20 companies operate more than 30 stores. Shells Jiffy Lube ranked first, operating 2,165 facilities. Adding its other two quick-lube businesses (Pennzoil 10-Minute Oil Change and Shell Rapid Lube), Shell owned or franchised a total of 3,327 facilities as of Feb. 28. Ashlands Valvoline Instant Oil Change and Valvoline Express Care together operated 1,126 stores.

Chevrons Texaco Express Lube, Kwik Kar, Citgo Lube and Grease Monkey rounded out NOLNs list of the very largest operators with over 200 stores each. Another 14 companies operated from 33 to 186 facilities.

Fully 90 percent of the large operators told NOLN they promote a 3,000 mile oil-change interval to their customers, compared to 82 percent of the smaller operators. The miles their customers actually drive between oil changes have remained fairly constant in recent years: about 4,300 for the smaller operators and 4,900 for the larger.

While NOLNs 2005 Fast Lube Operators survey shows numerous differences between mom-and-pop and big-company operations – in costs, pricing, profits, services and more – the operators agree in two areas. Large and small alike say word of mouth is their best form of advertising, and that customer service is the most important factor that will determine the future success of the fast-lube industry.

The complete six-page Operators survey is available for $60 from NOLN. For information, visit The Lubbock, Texas-based magazine (web: says it will provide the 2005 survey to new subscribers who purchase a $39 annual subscription by October 14. To purchase and pay by credit card, phone (800) 796-2577.