WASHINGTON—When it comes to trust, it's hard to beat the approval of MOM, at least that's the aim of a recently launched American Petroleum Institute (API) motor oil installer licensing program.
MOM stands for "Motor Oil Matters," an API campaign to create a chain of custody for quality motor oil from manufacturer to installer and to educate consumers to ask what type and quality of oil is put into their vehicles.
API, a trade association of more than 500 member companies in the oil and natural gas industries, licenses motor oils meeting its performance standards. Under the new program, it now wants to also license installers of certified motor oil to maintain consumer trust in the auto repair shops.
MOM is a multi-component program—a consumer awareness campaign to educate vehicle owners on the importance of using the correct type of motor oil that is recommended for their particular vehicles; a chain of custody program to assure the quality of bulk motor oil from manufacturer to distributor to installer to consumer; and quality monitoring that involves testing bulk product in the market to ensure the quality of the oil is as represented and meets API requirements.
Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. created the program in 2009 to educate consumers about the importance of quality motor oil before API decided to make it an industry-wide campaign and launched MOM in late 2011. The campaign is just recently gaining steam with the installer licensing component.
"We realized we needed another component to it to make sure engine oils are properly identified to consumers and to make sure there is a proper chain of custody so that oils that are being dispensed in bulk are maintained a certain way so that people are assured of the quality of the product, and ultimately that the product is properly identified to the consumer," said Kevin Ferrick, manager of API's engine oil program.
Licensing applications opened a few months ago and so far MOM has 14 licensed installers and 80 consumer and commercial vehicle service locations are in the process of being approved. The annual fee for the first licensed location is $400 and each additional dealership location pays a $100 annual fee.
Each approved location receives a window sticker license, marketing and POS materials and a listing on the licensed installer locator page on the MOM website, www.MotorOilMatters.org.
Oil quality lacking
"One of the things that we heard back from some of the oil change locations that we had spoken to is that API needed to do a better job of promoting the importance of using oil that meet API standards because that's part of the problem here," Mr. Ferrick said. "Consumers weren't asking questions about the oil that was going into their vehicle, to be blunt. They would go to a location. They would make the assumption that all oil is the same, at least that's what we believe. And they would trust that they were getting the right oil,
"Well, our testing has indicated that that's not always the case; that oils are either lower quality than they should be or they're being misrepresented," he said.
"We're constantly fighting this issue about 'oil as oil,'" Mr. Ferrick continued. "If that were the case, we wouldn't constantly have oils that fail our testing. If all oil is the same, it would be very easy for us to verify whether a product is the oil that is claimed. Our experience is that there's more than one way to make quality oil. And you got to make sure that the oil that is being dispensed is the specific oil that we've licensed and has been proven that it can meet the requirements for today's cars and trucks."
He noted that is particularly important to have quality oil when OEMs recommend longer oil change intervals for newer vehicles.
"They're basing these drain intervals on a certain quality level, so it's important to make sure that the oil that is being dispensed is meeting the quality level that the engine manufacturers are recommending. Otherwise you run the risk that a lower quality oil in an engine could have adverse consequences. It may not happen right away but, over time, you could see the engine's life be somewhat shortened because a lower quality oil was used."
Unlike packaged oil bottles and containers that carry the API seal, viscosity grade and brand markings, bulk oil information is more ambiguous.
"We've been testing engine oil from bulk containers since 1999 and from our experience oils coming out of bulk containers fail at a higher rate than packaged products, such as bottles and other containers. It seems to have had a jump in the last four years where the number of failures actually increased. Those numbers have stayed fairly constant for the last four years," he said.
"So we thought it was important that we needed to do something to help better safeguard the quality of the product. What we determined is the information needed to ensure that a product is what it claims to be wasn't really there. We needed an infrastructure; we needed something that, at minimum, required full disclosure of product from the point of whoever made it right down to the consumer."
That disclosure involves the manufacturer identifying the product to the installer and the installer identifying the type and brand of oil on the consumer receipt.
"While that sounds very logical, I can tell you from our experience, that's not always the case. The consumer doesn't necessarily receive that level of information. From our experience, at best, they know the viscosity grade," he said, adding, "You can have a good 5W30 and you can have a bad one."
As a MOM licensed installer, a facility would be required to get documented verification of the type of bulk engine oil they receive from a distributor and then pass that information on to their customers.
"From a practical standpoint, if you're a tire service location and you're doing oil changes, you're going to get the information you need to know that you're getting the right oil that's recommended for the cars and trucks you're servicing. You would have some assurance that the oil is the correct oil and if you're using the correct oil and you got assurance that you're using the right oil, it provides protection if there is ever a claim against the location for a problem with the oil. The chain of custody is there to protect the installer," noted Mr. Ferrick.
"It will help build trust between the tire location and their customers. So the customers know when they go in that facility, they will get oil that meets the recommendation for their vehicle."
License applicants should already have established chain-of-custody documentation for their motor oil when they sit down to apply online. When filling out the application, applicants will need to upload a minimum of three customer receipts generated within the past week of the application date and a minimum of three invoices from distributors that delivered product to the location within the last six months. Both types of receipts should indicate the brand, grade and viscosity of the oil purchased.
All licensed locations are subject to random audits during which API inspectors purchase a sample of motor oil and test it to make sure the oil being dispensed is what it claims to be.
"That certainly would help provide that location assurance that they're getting the right oil for their customers…I think they would want to know that the oil they are receiving is what they expect it to be," Mr. Ferrick said.
API, which has worked with vehicle manufacturers for years in setting up motor oil standards, is now working with them to get their car dealerships signed on to the MOM program, Mr. Ferrick added.
Another aspect of the MOM program is to educate consumers about motor oil quality through social media and internet ads.
"Our goal is that a consumer will go into a location and rather than just saying 'I need my oil changed,' that they are going to ask a few more questions. 'What am I getting for my car?' and 'Are you sure that this oil is the oil that is recommended for my vehicle?'…" Mr, Ferrick said.
"One of the things that we, API, are committed to doing is to promote not just MOM, not just the MOM message and trying to get companies to sign up, but to reach out to the consumer audience as much as possible so they start asking the right questions. Exactly what oil am I getting? …We want consumers to be engaged with that. We want them to at least expect to get proof or some kind of reaffirmation that the oil that just got pumped into their engine from that nozzle in the rack is the oil that is recommended."