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Oil Their Own Way


Open a new passenger car owners manual in the United States, and youll read that an API-licensed engine oil -now API SM – should be used. Drivers are urged to use any oil of the correct viscosity grade that bears the American Petroleum Institutes starburst trademark, or at least its donut logo. Thats it.

In Europe, on the other hand, ACEA Oil Sequences are the platform for oil quality. With 11 distinct categories in three classes, the Oil Sequences are designed to allow vehicle manufacturers and their oil suppliers to aggressively formulate products with varying capabilities. No industrywide trademark alerts consumers to asingle, acceptable quality, and drivers are pressed to buy oils that are tailored for their particular ride.

The core of Europes attitude to engine oil specifications can be found in the opening sentences of the ACEA Oil Sequences document: These sequences define the minimum quality level of a product for presentation to ACEA members. Performance parameters other than those covered by the tests shown or more stringent limits may be indicated by individual member companies.

Most European vehicle manufacturers use this foundation as aspringboard to issue their own proprietary specifications, which they reference as the primary -sometimes only – recommendation in their owners manuals. Instead of standing alone, ACEA Oil Sequences takeaback seat, often as alast chance option to be used in the event that an OEM-sanctioned product is not available -and only until the proprietary product can be acquired.

But not all European vehicle manufacturers put ACEA Oil Sequences in the back seat. Twohighly successful European vehicle manufacturers are polar opposites in how they reference ACEA Oil Sequences in their manuals and to their consumers. DaimlerChryslers Mercedes Benz division does not mention ACEA Oil Sequences at all; Fiats IVECO recommends only ACEA Oil Sequences.

Mercedes Benz: My Spec Only

Mercedes Benz cars are by far DaimlerChryslers largest volume product in Europe (921,718 sold in 2005 in Europe alone). Senior Fuels and Lubricants Manager HubertSchnuepke, based in Stuttgart, Germany,points out, In our owners manuals we reference our own specifications, sheets 229.x for passenger cars/light-duty vehicles, and sheets 228.x for heavy-duty. We ask our customers to use only these specifications in their vehicles and do not make mention of ACEA Sequences.

His colleague, Michael Schenk, explains these specs, which are detailed in sheets or service bulletins: Our oil quality recommendations have three levels – Standard, Medium and Top.

The light-duty Standard specification, sheet 229.1, is directed to customers with older Mercedes Benz cars who want a cheaper oil without long-drain capability. Base oils for our standard level are mainly mineral. Application of sheet 229.1 oils is not possible anymore in all Mercedes Benz cars. For some newer cars higher quality or low ash is required.

Our Medium quality level oil, sheet 229.3, is formulated with additives producing more ash. Sheet 229.3 oils can be used in gasoline cars and for diesel cars without diesel particulate filters. For actual diesel cars with diesel particulate filters, low-ash products are required. Such products are specified by Sheet 229.31, which is on the same quality level as 229.3 but with limitations for ash, phosphorous and sulfur.

Our Top oils, 229.5 and 229.5.1, are also high and low ash, respectively,and provide fuel economy benefits of more than 1.7 percent. Oil drain intervals up to 13,000 miles with top-tier quality oils in the U.S. are possible.

We apply the same system, logic and strategy, continues Schenk, on the heavy-duty side, where our specification is 228 and where drain intervals range from 10,000 miles up to 50,000 miles, dependent on individual application and on oil quality.

Arent all these different specifications confusing to customers? No, replies Schenk. These levels are based on the wishes of our customers. We are focusing our specifications on the market needs of our customers. We have made best experiences -no oil-related field problems -with our system. Most field incidents are caused by the wrong oil for the drain interval.

Schnuepke adds, All of our light-duty factory fill is SAE 5W-30 synthetic oil. The 5W gives a good cold start, and the 30 gives good fuel-economy benefits. He remarks, however,We dont recommend a viscosity grade to customers, thats a decision for the customer.

Although Mercedes Benz doesnt recommend ACEA Oil Sequences in its manuals, Schnuepke goes on, we rely on many ACEA recommended tests, as well as our own proprietary tests which are not a part of ACEA specifications. We fully support ACEAs work on fuels and lubricants basic standards, and many of our required tests are ACEA tests. Often the engine test is the same but the limits are different. For example, limits for wear, cleanliness, TBN and high temperature/high shear limits could be different.

Mercedes Benz relies on a comprehensive engine oil oversight program, Schnuepke states. We have our own company certification program which allows an oil company to note our specification on the oil container. In September 2006 more than 1,000 light-duty and heavy-duty oil formulations were Mercedes Benz-certified.

Certification is no walk in the park, though. For an oil company to obtain certification from us, relates Schnuepke, it must provide evidence that the oil meets all of our specifications, which we update every six months.Priorto certification we evaluate test data submitted by oil and chemical additive companies as well as the actual parts from test engines used to certify an oil. We want to see everything. Individual labs which run our tests are certified, too, and must run reference tests at specified intervals.

We recognize that our certification program is pretty tough and can differentiate oil qualities, says Schenk. We see that this fact is used as a good advertisement for products which display our approval. At the same time we recognize that we cannot make specifications that our suppliers cant meet. So we work close together with oil and chemical additive companies to get the best specifications that we both can agree on.

IVECO: ACEAs Good Enough

Mack, Cummins, Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Volvo. Stand on any U.S. street corner and ask people passing by to tell you what these companies make and nearly everyone could give a correct answer. Cars,engines, trucks.

Substitute the name IVECO,andyoucouldstand on that corner for along, long time and get very hoarse before finding one single person who knows that IVECO builds trucks and related heavy-duty vehicles. This, despite the fact that IVECO (Industrial VehicleCorp.) is the third-largest heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer in Europe, and has worldwide operations including nine engine plants -six in Europe and one each in Brazil, Argentina and China. Further, one of IVECOs five worldwide branches is in the United States; it owns 80 percent of the venerable tractor manufacturer Case New Holland, and sells engines in the United States for construction machinery.

Of course, IVECOs parent company,Fiat Group, has higher U.S. brand recognition. Fiats two major manufacturing divisions are Fiat Auto, which makes cars including the high-performance Alfa Romeo, and IVECO.

Meinrad Signer,deputy general manager of IVECOs Powertrain Technologies Division Research Centre, gazes out over the beautiful Lake Constance from his office in Arbon, Switzerland, and acknowledges, Our company is not so well known, especially in the U.S. While we are a worldwide manufacturer and are especially strong in China, where weve been for 20 years, North America is a black hole for us; we just started there again two years ago.

In 2005, IVECO sold 128,000 vehicles in Europe, according to ACEA statistics, and is, as Signer notes, one of three European companies that produce a full range of commercial vehicles. IVECOs web site points to the variety of its engine technology including 3-, 4- and 6-cylinder in-line engines and V6, V8, V12 and V16 units.

Thats quite a range of engines and technology to lubricate, so IVECO must have an equally wide spread of company specifications, right? Wrong, says Signer. IVECO does not have a single in-house specification for lubricants, nor do we own or develop any proprietary tests. Instead, we fully rely on and recommend in our owners manuals only internationally recognized specifications, that is ACEA Oil Sequences, which are based on CEC tests,and in the United States, API Service Categories.

He adds, That recommendation in Europe -only ACEA Oil Sequences – applies to our passenger cars manufactured by Fiat auto group, too.

Signer elaborates, We see it as a very simple system that is best for our customers. You look in your owners manual and there is the widely accepted ACEA quality level. Thats it. Its easy to understand and put into practice.

Does relying only on Oil Sequences, without any company specifications, restrict IVECOs ability to match its competitors? Signer is firm in saying, No. In fact, we are recognized as having the longest drain intervals in Europe. Using only ACEA specifications does not at all decrease our ability to compete or to maintain flexibility.

When we develop an engine, the necessary lubricant is part of the development process. We take care that we never exceed certain levels of soot in the oil. This is a key point in engine oil development. In our current production engines, which can reach a 100,000-mile drain interval, soot never exceeds 1 percent. In fact, its often way below 1percent. And with low soot you have low wear,which enables long drain intervals.

IVECO has another unique link to lubricants: FL Selenia, an Italian headquartered oil company with along history. It was established in 1912 by Fiat with the aim of manufacturing first-filllubricants for all its vehicles. In 1976, FL Selenia became independent and began an expansion within Europe and worldwide. In 2000, it was separated from the Fiat Group and purchased Viscosity Oil Co. In 2005, FL Selenia was acquired by the American private equity firm KKR. It employs nearly 1,000 workers, about half of them in Italy.

Fiat has had along business relationship with FL Selenia and that professional relationship continues today, Signer notes. We work closely with them and share test results. They do testing and development for us, and we recommend only their products in our owners manuals. It is not mandatory to use an FL Selenia product in our engines, but it is mandatory to use a product with the appropriate API or ACEA specification. However, dealers mostly use FL Selenia products because they get favorable prices. We do not have an approved list of products. If a product meets ACEA Oil Sequences or API Service Categories it can be used in our engines.

Signer wraps up: We have a very unique system. I know of no other European company that recommends only ACEA Oil Sequences in their manuals and a single oil companys products. But we havent experienced any field problems and we think production oils in the marketplace are good.

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