GM Offers Details on its ‘dexos’ Plans


General Motors’ new global engine oil specification is now trademarked as dexos — yes, it’s spelled with all lower-case letters — and is poised to make the leap from the drawing board into the market. Dexos II, designed for use in passenger car diesel engines, is launching now in Europe, and the company says its gasoline-fueled counterpart should be available globally for its 2011 model year vehicles.

Eric R. Johnson of General Motors Powertrain, North America, provided some details about dexos to Lube Report. “We expect to have dexos for all our manufacturing plants worldwide, as factory fill,” he said. “This may actually be easier for the lubricants industry, because our factory-fill suppliers will only have to manufacture to one engine oil specification, instead of making different oils for different regions.”

He believes the distribution chain for dexos will also be simplified, as dexos will be backward compatible with ILSAC GF-4 engine oils that are currently on the market. That means automobile dealerships and other installers that service GM vehicles will need to stock only dexos, he noted.

Johnson, who will describe dexos in more detail on Tuesday at a STLE Detroit Section meeting in Southfield, Mich., confirmed that qualified engine oils will be licensed to display the dexos name and a newly designed logo, similar to the way they show GM’s trademarked Dexron name on automatic transmission fluids.

In its current form, the dexos specification uses tests from ILSAC and Europe’s ACEA, plus some proprietary GM tests. At this time it includes the Sequence VIB test for fuel economy contribution of engine oils. When that test is upgraded to Sequence VID, “we’ll move to that test too,” Johnson added. He declined to say if the test’s limits would differ from the limits being developed for ILSAC GF-5 oils (see related story, above).

The dexos specification is written very narrowly, and some formulators who have reviewed it say it will be achievable only with heavy use of API Group III or polyalphaolefin base oils, due to its low Noack volatility limits. Johnson said the specification is designed around GM’s performance needs, and not written to exclude other base oils. If oil marketers and their additive suppliers can meet dexos using conventional base stocks, he said, they may do so.

Since around 1970, the American Petroleum Institute has managed engine oil categories and licensing, joined by North American and Japanese automakers for the past 20 years. Throughout this time, General Motors continued to have its own specifications and to reference them in its owner’s manuals. The manuals currently include GM spec 6094M and 4718M for service fill. Dexos will replace both of these, Johnson said.

The Center for Quality Assurance, part of the Savant Group in Midland, Mich., has been selected as the program administrator for dexos licensing. Licensees will pay a $1,000 annual fee for each product, plus a royalty of 36 cents on every gallon of dexos they sell.

One reason these royalties are needed, Johnson told Lube Report, is that a number of engine sequence tests are soon going to need replacing, as they become obsolete or the hardware becomes unavailable. GM’s costs for engine test development will be huge, he said, and the company needs to be prepared for that.

These licensing fees are far beyond what the lubricants industry is accustomed to paying to API. Currently, licensees pay a flat fee of $1,050 per company ($200 more for non-API members), and a royalty of $0.0015 per gallon for volumes exceeding 1 million gallons a year. That fee entitles the qualifying oil to show API’s donut and starburst logos.

The starburst logo for many years has appeared in all General Motors owner’s manuals, advising consumers to seek out products that display it. This time, Johnson said, the automaker cannot commit to having its 2011 owner’s manuals reference the ILSAC GF-5 oils now being developed by the lubricants industry, or to including the API “starburst” logo that will identify them in the market.

That’s because the new ILSAC category is a year late in development, and GM doesn’t know yet if it will deliver the oil it needs for 2011. “GF-5 doesn’t exist now, so we can’t comment on our plans for it until the specification is finalized,” Johnson stated. “We will include dexos, in place of the older GM numerical specifications.”

Eric Johnson will be the featured presenter next Tuesday, Sept. 8, at a technical meeting sponsored by the Detroit Section of the Society of Tribologists & Lubrication Engineers. The event, from 11:30 to 1:30 at the Southfield Marriott, Southfield, Mich., is expected to draw a crowd, so pre-registration is urged. For details, contact the Detroit Section’s Charlie Bender at (734) 913-7728. E-mail:

Johnson also has accepted an invitation to speak at the upcoming ICIS Pan American Base Oils & Lubricants Conference in Jersey City, N.J., Dec. 3 and 4. For information about that event, visit

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