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Mobils Coup


The highly competitive U.S. motor oil market has a new entry with the potential to upend the sales volume assumptions it has operated under for decades. Following two intensive and secretive years of work, ExxonMobil at the end of January unveiled a new line of motor oils that offer guaranteed engine protection for change intervals of 5,000, 7,500 and 15,000 miles.

Consumers were to get their first glimpse of the quartet of products – Mobil Clean 5000, Mobil Clean High Mileage, Mobil Clean 7500 and Mobil 1 Extended Performance – on Feb. 20, with special advertising promised for Fox Televisions broadcast of the Daytona 500. Three NASCAR teams, led by Penske Racing Souths Ryan Newman, Rusty Wallace and Travis Kvapil, are also signed on to promote the new line of high endurance motor oils, beginning March 13 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedways UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400. Sources claim, but ExxonMobil declined to confirm, that it will spend $40 million to $50 million in a media push starting after the Daytona kickoff.

Mobil is not the first brand to offer drivers the option of extending drain intervals, but it is the first major brand to make that leap with a full line of products, including both mineral oil and synthetic based formulas. The new oils achieve their lengthy drain intervals, it says, by boosting the level of cleaning performance – to help extend engine life and help prevent the formation of sludge and other harmful deposits.

ExxonMobil says its durable four-some responds to a previously unmet consumer need by guaranteeing performance and protection for 15,000, 7,500 or 5,000 miles, stated Mike Mullins, vice president of marketing at ExxonMobil Lubricants and Specialties in Fairfax, Va.

The company said it created the products in part because consumers are receiving mixed messages from OEMs and installers and clarity is needed. Automakers have begun recommending longer oil change intervals and motor oil performance has also been boosted; yet, many new car owners have become confused about exactly how long their motor oil can last.

Consumers want oils that guarantee protection for the longer oil changes they are experiencing, it said. And they can understand a straightforward performance claim, such as proven protection for an X-thousand guaranteed miles, added Automotive Marketing Manager Habib Quazi.

Breaking from the Pack

Engine oil labels, including Mobils, for years have cited performance benefits including extending engine life and preventing the formation of sludge and deposits. What is different with this line is the explicit reference to and guarantee of engine protection, in miles of service. Other than Shells Jiffy Lube Divisions longtime 3,000-mile recommendation, no major oil company has offered change interval advice for over a decade. Instead, they tend to tell consumers to follow their vehicle owners manuals recommendation. Specifying a discrete oil change interval may break this logjam.

Nevertheless, oil change intervals recommended by U.S. vehicle manufacturers have been increasing for a number of years, and European change intervals are higher still, with the average in Europe about 10,000 miles – more than double that of the United States. Moreover, Europes top-tier products – which include Mobil 1 – provide protection up to 20,000 miles.

The U.S. market is slowly edging in that direction, too. Fords and Toyotas oil change intervals are currently 5,000 miles for most vehicles, DaimlerChryslers are 6,000 miles, and Hondas have reached 10,000 miles. General Motors does not specify a change interval for most cars, and instead relies on its on-board oil life monitor system to alert the driver when a change is needed.

ExxonMobil says its research shows U.S. drivers change their oil on average every 4,300 miles. If drain intervals increase to an average 7,500 miles, it would result in a substantial decrease in annual engine oil sales. The company did not estimate the potential volume decrease, but if there is less used oil discarded as a result of the introduction of these products, thats a positive impact on the environment, ExxonMobil Automotive Marketing Advisor Jeff Jones said. Our consumer research indicates 30 percent of consumers will extend their drain intervals.

ExxonMobils consumer research also found that 90 percent of drivers said they would use a motor oil that guaranteed to protect for 7,500 miles between changes.

About 55 percent of oil changes in the United States are done by installers, such as quick-lube outlets, service stations and auto dealerships. The other 45 percent are performed by individual do-it-yourselfers.

While ExxonMobil is particularly targeting the do-it-yourselfer segment, the offer is also designed to be a premium offer to the installed channel, said Quazi. For installers, these products start out with a very strong, core additive package which exceeds the GF-4 requirements, said Tom Olszewski, the companys technical advisor, automotive lubricants. And then we have a boosted level of performance beyond our bulk installed offer, which now is going to be called Mobil Clean. This product is offered only to installers and is not in the retail aftermarket.

The Line Up

Two of Mobils new products are conventional mineral oils, one is a synthetic blend, and one, Mobil 1 Extended Performance, is a fully synthetic formulation.

Mobil 1 Extended Performance contains 36 percent more anti-wear additives and 37 percent more cleaning agents than current Mobil 1 formulations. To be offered for a suggested retail price of $5.79 to $5.99 per quart – about $1 higher than the current Mobil 1 price at mass merchants – it also boasts an Advanced SuperSyn System, with 50 percent more SuperSyn, ExxonMobils proprietary high-performance synthetic component.

The synthetic blend offering, Mobil Clean 7500, is guaranteed to protect critical engine parts for 7,500 miles under typical driving conditions. It contains 18 percent more cleaning agents than Mobil Clean 5000, and has a suggested price range of $2.49 to $2.69.

New Mobil Clean 5000 (suggested price: $1.79 to $1.99) and Mobil High Mileage oils use mineral oil base stocks and contain 16 percent more detergent additives than the previous formulation. The High Mileage product ($2.29 to $2.49) is formulated for vehicles with over 75,000 miles and is also guaranteed to provide protection for 5,000 miles.

All the products, except Mobil 1 Extended Performance, are API licensed to the most current categories, ILSAC GF-4 and API SM. Surprisingly, Mobil 1 Extended Performance is not currently licensed – because it does not meet the fuel economy requirements of GF-4 as measured by the Sequence VIB engine test. It does, however, meet the engine durability and protection requirements of the specification. The company said it working to meet the fuel economy requirements while retaining the 15,000-mile guarantee. Technically its doable, said Olszewski, Were well under way and expect to get there.

He explained that the formulating strategy for Mobil Clean 5000 and 7500 was to boost performance by starting from a new ILSAC GF-4/API SM formulation and using more cleaning additives and high-performance base oils. In addition to engine and bench tests in the laboratory, an extensive field test program was undertaken, using more than 50 vehicles. Weve explicitly taken advantage of our long formulation history and experience in developing these products, particularly Mobil 1 with a 30-year history, Olszewski noted.

To address the issue of vehicle warranties, the back labels of Mobils new products advise that drivers of vehicles still under manufacturers warranty should follow the oil change interval guidelines set forth in their owners manual. A warranty is a relationship between a car builder and a consumer, Jeff Jones pointed out, and during the warranty period we dont want to get into the middle of that relationship. However, all consumers can benefit from higher performing oils such as the Mobil high-endurance line.

Another surprise: The new oils are for use under typical driving conditions -even stop-and-go commuting, the company said. The only exceptions, all listed on the back label, are racing and commercial use; frequent towing or hauling; extremely dusty or dirty conditions; or excessive idling. Except for the four exclusions shown on the back label, we guarantee protection for all driving conditions, Quazi said. Our product contains only these four disclaimers and the rest is normal consumer driving.

Were trying to cut through the clutter, confusion and different messages that are in the marketplace.

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