by Amy Antenora
Managing Editor, aftermarketNews.com
DETROIT — Valvoline Co. recently shared with aftermarketNews.com a letter written to the editor of the Detroit Free Press responding to an article that questioned the legitimacy of some specialty motor oils.
The article, “Don’t be fooled by pricey, fancy oils, experts warn,” was published July 15 in the Detroit Free Press and was picked up by other associated national newspapers such as the Kansas City Star. In the article, Free Press Auto Critic Mark Phelan stated that the “bewildering variety of oils” on the market today may be a waste of money, according to the “variety of industry experts” with whom he spoke.
Valvoline took issue with the article and claimed that there were no “motor oil experts” quoted in the article. The article included comments from Tracey King, Chrysler Group product development specialist responsible for testing and recommending oils and other organic materials, Kevin Ferrick , a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, Harold Schock, professor of mechanical engineering and director of Michigan State University’s Automotive Research Experiment Station and an unnamed expert on Ford’s vehicle-service operations.
According to the Phelan, “designer” motor oils can cost six times as much as basic store-brand motor oils. In the article, Chrysler’s King went on to say that her company sees no evidence of truth to claims that synthetic oils can last as much as 15,000 miles. “Oil companies make so much money off oils for higher-mileage cars,” said King. “We don’t recommend it. There is no need to spend money on it.”
In a letter to the editor, Dr. Fran Lockwood, senior vice president technology for Valvoline, responded to the article and defended the claims that Valvoline and other motor oil manufacturers make about their products. Her letter to the editor reads:
“I’m writing in response to the article you recently published on motor oils. The article questions the efforts of the motor oil industry to provide consumers with choice and the ability to use the motor oil that best suits their needs. Since no motor oil experts were quoted in the article, perhaps I can add insights.
“A Chrysler Group spokesperson was critical of high mileage engine oils. Vehicle manufacturers conduct their testing on new vehicles under controlled conditions. At Valvoline we took apart high mileage engines, determined which problems were typical and went to work addressing those problems with special additives. Our research was verified at both independent test facilities and at Valvoline’s state-of-the-art engine and field-testing facility. The result was the first motor oil for cars with more than 75,000 miles and a motor oil that helps battle increased oil consumption and performance loss. We want to see consumers get the most out of their vehicle regardless of its age.
“It’s curious that a Ford spokesperson considers motor oil just a commodity. Ford currently requires a performance level for 5W-20 oils above the standard ILSAC GF-3 (Starburst) / API SL specification. Of course, to satisfy this requirement they recommend their own 5W-20 premium synthetic blend product.
“Despite claims by one automaker spokesperson that the company tests oils in “extremely rigorous circumstances,” the motor oil industry right now is upgrading the minimum performance level of passenger car oils. Why? In part, to address engine sludge discovered by consumers — even when using motor oils specified by the automobile manufacturers.
“As for synthetics, a number of vehicles require them and many consumers like the added protection they afford under severe conditions. Valvoline would no more consider only marketing a minimum performance oil than we would expect the auto manufacturers to market a single vehicle meeting minimum government standards.
“The idea of using only the minimum requirement oil, the same oil that is put in at the factory — brings to mind astronaut John Glenn’s remarks when asked about his feelings on his first space launch. “I felt about as good as anybody would, sitting in a capsule on top of a rocket that were both built by the lowest bidder.”
“I would strongly encourage your readers to use the Internet to get a well-rounded view of the issues raised by your story on motor oils.
Dr. Fran Lockwood
Senior Vice President Technology
The Valvoline Company”
As far as we know, the letter has not yet been printed. A representative of Valvoline said that the article’s author thanked Valvoline for the letter and stated that he would forward it on to the editor of the paper’s “Motor City” section.
To read the entire article, click here: http://www.freep.com/money/autonews/oil15e_20040715.htm.
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