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August 15, 2016

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Gulf Oil lubricates expansion in China market

CHINA’S sports utility vehicle craze is driving not only carmakers to be more productive, but also lubricant retailers to be more creative.

Last month, US-originated Gulf Oil unveiled China’s first lubricant developed especially for sports utility vehicles, hoping to raise the brand’s heartbeat on the mainland. The product is called Cardiotonic.

Gulf Oil is little known in China for being a latecomer in a market dominated by global players like Shell, Castrol and Mobil.

The company recently signed a three-year global partnership with England’s Manchester United football team, which is a household name in China. The deal is aimed at lifting Gulf’s profile quickly.

“Gulf Oil China will carry out more precise localization of its business in China by providing products tailor-made to the needs of Chinese consumers,” said Liu Yaguang, general manager of Gulf Oil China.

Sales of sports utility vehicles are booming in China, even amid slower growth in other vehicle segments. Marketed as off-road conquerors, these cars have built a reputation on the old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The vehicles can perform demanding tasks, like navigating over big obstacles at a low speed. That requires low-end torque, and low-end torque requires lubrication to ensure the pressure on the engine is bearable.

With Cardiotonic, Gulf Oil aims to give sports utility vehicles a system when necessary, enabling larger low-end torque compared with competitors at the same viscosity grade.

And because tough driving conditions tend to increase carbon deposits and sludge that can restrain an engine’s performance, Cardiotonic contains a special detergent dispersant.

But will Chinese sports utility vehicle owners really care about these technical specs when most of them use their vehicles for urban commuting rather than off-track adventures?

Not necessarily, but Gulf Oil has an answer for that.

The frequent starts-and-stops of an engine in urban traffic jams pose a need for wear protection, which equals to less friction. That is critical in improving the engine efficiency of sports utility vehicles, since their bulky size is more likely to make them gas guzzlers. And China’s air pollution, with fine particulates hard to filter during intake, increases the friction between engine parts. By adding a special friction modifier, Gulf Oil says it can bring the wear rate down to 39.5 percent from the industry standard of 65 percent.

The technologies involved can hardly to be called breakthroughs, but they may indeed be opening a high-end niche market for lubricants.


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