With news that new car sales are likely to fall 5.5% this year, it’s obvious that the average age of the vehicles on our roads is increasing. According to the ACEA (European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association) report, Vehicles in Use Europe 2017, there were 38.2 million vehicles on the roads in the UK last year, with the average passenger car or light commercial vehicle being eight-and-a-half years old. However, there are 13.7 million vehicles on our roads that are more than 10 years old.

On the car care fixture, the mix of old and new vehicles on the road presents a challenge for forecourt retailers when it comes to which lubricants to stock. Andrew Goddard, chairman of lubricants industry body Verification of Lubricants Specifications (VLS), explains: "The handbooks of these older vehicles are likely to recommend oils such as a 5W30. For example, according to its handbook, a 2009 Ford Focus would require an SAE 5W-30, SAE 5W-40 (except vehicles with E85 fuel) or SAE 10W-40. However, a 2018 model would require an SAE 5W-20. As manufacturers strive to create more efficient, lower emission vehicles, lubricants need to work harder. To support this, oil manufacturers are formulating new, lower viscosity lubricants, such as 0W20.

"The latest formulations are usually a good thing being cleaner and greener but putting the wrong oil in a vehicle can cause major problems. Oil provides essential lubrication for the engine, as well as protecting against friction, damage and wear and tear. Poor quality or the wrong oil can cause accelerated wear to gears and bearings, leading to increased maintenance costs and, if left unchecked, eventual engine failure."

Goddard says there is an added complication because of ACEA: "The ACEA specifications for lubricants are updated every few years, to take into account the latest developments in engine and lubricants technology. As an example, older cars not fitted with a catalytic converter or diesel particulate filter can use medium SAPS (Sulphated Ash Phosphorous and Sulphur) products defined by the ACEA A and B classes of specification. Newer vehicles need low SAPS so as not to destroy the cat or dpf. Not only will newer models require a lower viscosity lubricant, it may need to meet a different ACEA specification as well. As a forecourt retailer, what can you do to navigate this confusion?" asks Goddard.

He answers by saying: "Whatever the right oil for your end users’ requirements, the rule of thumb of always referring to the operating manual still holds true today. We also advise retailers to continuously review their sales history to see which are their highest-selling lubricants and keep stock of those, as well as use their supplier for advice and training. In cases of any doubt, retail assistants should recommend that motorists contact their supplier or the manufacturer to gain a final recommendation."

Martin Gray, CEO of Euro Car Parts, says his company carries all the major brands that customers look for in lubricants from the exceptional value of Triple QX, through to major brands including Shell, Castrol and Mobil. "As new oils are released to the market, we make sure we have the expertise and range to help forecourts stock the products that customers want."

Gray adds that forecourts also have a major opportunity to maximise profits from diesel consumable sales.

"Engine additives now play a vital part in ensuring engines operate at optimum performance and with most diesel cars having to be Euro 6 compliant within the next 10 years, now is the time for forecourts to be stocking items such as AdBlue."

Meanwhile, to simplify the oil- buying process for both the consumer and retailer, Tetrosyl’s Carlube brand has a range of seven oils which it says covers around 75% of the car parc. In addition, the company has implemented an on-pack text system where consumers text the number on packs to find out what oil they need. "As well as making it easier for the consumer, the retailer also benefits as they don’t require the same extensive knowledge of oils and have a simpler range to maintain," explains Tetrosyl’s lubricants manager Shazad Shah.

Lee Whiteman of Jet Cotgrave Service Station, Nottingham, says that with the type of vehicles on the road changing so rapidly, he regularly reviews his lubricant range with a view to covering approximately 80% of vehicles on the road. "Not many people realise how difficult it is to source the right lubricant for newer vehicles," he says.

Clean and shiny

Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager of Convenience Distribution Group (CDG), says the first thing that people look at on a car is usually the paintwork.

"There is nothing better than a clean shiny car, and to achieve this we recommend Turtle Wax Original Hard Shell Shine and Turtle Wax Zip Wax. Consumers respond well to brands they recognise and Turtle Wax Original and Zip Wax have been around for decades and still offer excellent performance. They have been the top-selling polish and shampoo for years."

Tissiman reminds retailers not to forget to stock complementary products such as sponges and dusters. "One of the new products that CDG has launched this year is the Kent Supersoft Microfibre Towel, which has six towels per roll. They are ideal for use on cars, at home and on boats and retailing at £5.99 a unit, they offer the retailer a great cash margin. There is also an opportunity to upgrade on the humble sponge with the Kent Noodle Wash Pad, which offers a superior wash for the vehicle. The microfibre noodles lift dirt with ease, are highly absorbent and soft yet durable, and also give retailers extra cash margin at the till."

Meanwhile, Tissiman likens having a beautiful, shiny car with dirty wheels like having a smart suit with scuffed shoes.

"Wheels need special attention. As the closest part of the car to the road they attract dirt, road grime and brake dust.

"To remedy this we recommend Simoniz Alloy Wheel Cleaner, which easily removes dirt to help achieve clean alloys quickly. It’s suitable for all alloy wheels and it sprays on easily to keep alloys clean and shiny. For the tyres stock Armor All Tire Foam. The Foam contains cleaning agents that stick to the tyre wall and as it breaks down, the dirt and cleaning agents are carried away and the protection and beautification ingredients can penetrate the rubber."

Then, for the interior, he recommends Armor all Cockpit Shine, which comes in three fragrances: New Car, Vanilla and Lemon Fresh.

Finally, Andrew Knight, sales director at Holt Lloyd International, says summer driving often means family trips and holidays that involve driving, so helping to manage the ’small emergencies’ that can arise is key. He suggests stocking Simoniz Upholstery Wipes, Simoniz Dash Wipes and Simoniz Glass Wipes to help combat sand, spillages and sticky fingers.

Simpler blade system

Ring has launched what it says is a unique universal wiper blade system that will transform blade replacement for motorists.
Ring’s Ultravision Wiper Blades have a single clip that fits 95% of vehicles meaning that the time-consuming process of finding the right blade and adaptor is a thing of the past. The single clip comes attached to the blade, so you simply need to measure the blade you need to find the correct replacement.
The blades are made with high-performance PFTE rubber featuring silent glide technology, which provides clear windows for excellent visibility.
Ring has been supplying blades for over 20 years. In that time, the majority of motorists have moved to using the modern beam blades as opposed to traditional cantilever wipers. Beam blades have a high-spec look and clear windows effectively, but have created a complicated experience for motorists trying to select the right one. Ring’s new range features just 16 options based on length, with no need to find the correct clip, meaning it’s much simpler to find the right one.

A breath of fresh air

Air fresheners sell well all year round and are usually bought on impulse. So says, Graham Tissiman, sales and marketing manager of Convenience Distribution Group (CDG). "To maximise the appeal of air fresheners, it is always beneficial to have a brand that the consumer trusts," he explains, adding that CDG has just introduced the Little Trees Clip available in seven popular fragrances, and the Jelly Belly Can.
Martin Gray, CEO of Euro Car Parts, agrees about the importance of air fresheners: "Over 43% of car owners still wash their cars inside and out and air fresheners are an essential purchase, particularly by taxi drivers. Stocking one type is no longer enough and breadth and choice is paramount. We find that the most popular air fresheners are California Scents Coronado Cherry, Little Trees Black Ice and Little Trees New Car scents."
He adds that fragrance is now important in screen wash too, with over 20% of that sold now being scented.

Retailer view

Lee Whiteman,
Jet Cotgrave Service Station, Nottingham:
"Ours is an archetypal village garage, with a 16-nozzle Jet forecourt, 600sq ft shop, a workshop and car sales. We’ve been here a very long time and for many years everyone locally knew us as a traditional ’motor garage’, so our customers have always expected us to stock a great car care range. It’s a key part of our offering and we sell high volumes of screen wash, anti-freeze, engine oils (including the JetMax range), de-icers, AdBlue, fuel cans, windscreen wipers, batteries, lightbulbs, wash and wax products, brake fluid and power steering fluid.
"Most of our products are sourced from a local wholesale motor factor, which gives us a strong advantage over most other petrol stations. We also source from CDG and direct from a lubricant manufacturer.
"We don’t have a lot of storage space so suppliers being able to deliver the right product quickly, when we place an order, is key. We manage the product ranges ourselves in-store as we know what our customers want to see on the shelves. Our range changes according to the season and in winter we extend our shelf space for car care products. Our best sellers are five-litre bottles of screenwash and de-icers.
"Air fresheners are popular all year round so we stock Magic Tree which are always a best seller and Neutradol in a display near the tills.
"When helping customers, we’re lucky in that we have a team of experienced technicians on site in the workshop so if any of our customers need advice on what products to choose, there is help at hand."