Total Guns for Share of U.S. Motor Oils


Total announced last week that it has begun selling Elf synthetic motor oils in the United States, an initiative aimed at helping the French energy giant gain a foothold in the worlds largest automotive lubricant market.

Total is the fourth-largest oil and gas company in the world and a very large player in lubricants globally, Elf Automotive Market Manager for the United States Laurent Siret said. Now Total wants to do something in the United States and develop their brand recognition. We havent had much of a presence here, but we believe there is room for our products.

Siret said he has built a network of 20 distributors that are carrying Elf synthetic oils in New England, parts of the East and West coasts and pockets of the Midwest. The company will continue trying to sign up more distributors to expand its reach.

Total has had a presence in the United States for years, primarily through chains of gasoline stations. Total Lubricants USA Inc., and Elf Lubricants North America are both headquartered in Linden, N.J., and operate blending plants in Linden, Rockingham, N.C., and Knoxville, Tenn. Those operations, however, have focused on industrial lubricants.

The company is targeting the synthetic motor oils because it sees it as a growth market. Not only are motor oil standards rising, but Total expects continued growth in demand for foreign cars, in particular European models with high-performance engines.

Elf claims claims to have the leading synthetic oils in Europe and has approvals from manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz, Audi, Porsche and BMW for gasoline, diesel and turbo-charged engines. Siret added that he expects diesel-powered passenger cars – which are already common in Europe – to become increasingly popular in the United States.

There arent many major [motor oil brands in the United States] that have approvals for these types of high-performance vehicles, Siret said. My goal is to compete a little bit against them and grab a little bit of a market share of this segment that should grow in the next 5 to 10 years. He projected synthetic oils to account for between 30 percent and 40 percent of total U.S. motor oil demand in five years.

The new initiative includes two lines of Elf oils: Excellium, which is marketed as a high-performance oil for gasoline, diesel, turbo-charged and multi-valve engines; and Evolution, which offers the same performance plus added fuel economy.

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