UK BP dealers gathered in Berlin last month for the official launch of BP’s new premium fuel Ultimate with active technology. The event involved 600 guests from 15 countries across Europe, scientists involved in the project, as well as a visit by chief executive Bob Dudley.

Hailed as BP’s ’biggest fuel launch for 10 years’, and ’best-ever range of dirt-busting fuels’ the new-formula Ultimate has been gradually appearing on UK forecourts for the past month, accompanied by a TV advertising campaign featuring a character called Orby, ’a bright green orb who lives at every forecourt’.

The messaging is all about the millions of dirt-busting active molecules in the new fuel, which is targeting all levels of the market not just the latest premium cars. BP says it will also benefit older vehicles by tackling the build-up of dirt which can hinder performance and fuel economy.

As well as keeping the engine clean and reducing maintenance costs, motorists are promised a potential extra 21 miles per tank although it might take 6,200 miles to achieve it.

Whatever the claims, dealers seem pleased with the arrival of the new fuel after such a long time, which gives them a strong product with which to challenge other premium fuels on the market notably Shell’s V-Power. The increased marketing activity to which they are contributing on a 50/50 basis with BP will also encourage motorists not just to fill up on their forecourts, but also check out the range of goods and services on offer in their modern convenience stores.

At the launch BP Oil UK retail operations director Priscillah Mabelane commented: "We set out to develop a fuel that would tackle the problem of harmful dirt, genuinely support engine performance and help people maintain the health of their car and avoid costly trips to a mechanic.

"What we’ve achieved over the past five years is a new range of Ultimate fuels that not only clean engines but starts doing so from the very first fill - whatever the age of the engine and help deliver that all-important fuel economy. We are pleased to bring our newest dirt-busting innovation and best ever range of Ultimate fuels to our customers in the UK."

Mabelane took over the role of retail operations director last August. She is responsible for the development and implementation of retail strategy in the UK, and therefore responsible for both company-owned and dealer-owned sites the UK BP network currently stands at around 1,200 forecourts as well as for driving connectivity and alignment across the various functions within the fuels UK business.

She came to the UK from BP in South Africa, where she was the CFO of the Southern African Fuels Value Chain business. Prior to joining BP, Priscillah held various executive roles in a number of large South African companies and is a member of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.

She sees the UK market as extremely dynamic and "quite exciting", given the mix of players the hypermarkets, the dealers and the oil company owned sites, and despite the challenges is confident about BP’s offer in the retail sector.

"BP is a significant player with just over 1,200 sites of which 970 are dealers. Our partnership with M&S over the past 10 years has given us the opportunity to be distinctive and to provide a qualitative offer in store. Similarly wth the launch of our new Ultimate fuel, this gives us the opportunity to bring a qualitative offer on the forecourt. We also have good card offer, strong loyalty programme, and good customer service."

Mabelane sees her role as building on that momentum, to create a solid network of sites, and raising the standards of operation. Part of that strategy is to build on the company’s commitment to M&S and reach its target of 300 sites.

"We have opened eight new M&S sites since the beginning of the year we have a target of 30 sites for the whole year."

The strategy is also to improve the quality of the existing network, focusing on the quality and investment in the retail offer whether it’s a dealer or a BP site. To this end she has made a point of getting out and about visiting forecourts, and even accompanied Rontec boss Gerald Ronson on one of his famous Saturday drives around the network. She is encouraging her staff to do the same. But she understands that improving standards takes time.

"We have a strong affinity with our dealers," she stresses. "We need to look at our sites in terms of standards and know where our dealer sites are sitting from that perspective. We will engage with those who are not performing to the right levels. We want dealers who are robust. However it’s not about measuring, but ensuring our strategic direction is aligned."

Mabelane also talks about growth targets: "We want to grow, but that growth can come from two perspectives. One is growth from the dealers capturing more of the market with what they already have. The second part is looking at the number of sites we have. But for me, it’s not about numbers we don’t have a specific target but about quality growth."

Now the new fuel has been launched Mabelane says the challenge is how to keep it constantly in the minds of motorists, to ensure that the communication is robust, and reaching as many customers as possible.

She says the company has seen encouraging numbers so far following its first round of TV advertising focusing on BP Ultimate with active technology.

This will be continued in the coming months with a broad range of marketing activity including digital, radio and more TV advertising.

"We are expecting double-digit growth on our premium fuels following the launch of the new fuel; as well as growth across our other fuels," stresses Mabelane. "Success for us will be a significant improvement in our market share."

What BP says...

BP analysed hundreds of industry sources, including research literature, patent searches and manufacturer service bulletins, which show that significant levels of harmful deposits ’engine dirt’ can be present in engines of vehicles on the road today and that this can lead to problems.
Even a microscopic amount of dirt can have a big impact on the performance of the engine.
Dirt has been shown to adversely affect the performance of the engine’s critical components such as fuel injectors and intake valves meaning that parts perform below their best and may need to be maintained or even replaced.
Engine designs are being improved all the time to better deal with the problem of dirt, but there are still large numbers of vehicles on the road which do not benefit from new engine technology, and which will be around for some time.
However, across the industry, it’s acknowledged that the chemical make-up of the fuel that goes through the engine has a significant effect.
New BP Ultimate fuels with active technology are designed to tackle the hidden problem of dirt. They are BP’s best ever range of dirt-busting fuels, containing their most advanced and innovative engine cleaning technology.
They are designed to improve performance; deliver more miles per tank; a smoother drive; and reduce the risk of unscheduled maintenance.

Bob Dudley opens fuel launch event

Bob Dudley, BP’s CEO, opened the official Ultimate with active technology fuel launch event in Berlin, and commented that the launch of the new fuels was important as it said a lot about BP today about its approach to customers and the business overall.
"BP Ultimate with active technology is something completely new. This is our first fuel launch in 10 years, the result of a five-year journey five years of rigorous development to create fuels that clean the engine and keep it clean. That can give your more miles per tank, and it means lower C02 emissions. Our new fuels are good for the engine, good for the pocket and they’re good for the planet. These are big claims, but they’re solidly based on extensive testing and thousands of hours in engines and vehicles. We have a new range of fuels we can really be proud of.
"These fuels are a shining example of BP’s downstream segment in 2016. We’ve put a lot of energy into our downstream in the past year or so. We know it is a really strong business, not only in retailing and refining, but in lubricants Castrol and in petrochemicals.
"BP’s downstream business achieved record-breaking earnings last year $7.5bn before taxes that’s really important at a time when oil prices are down.
"Upstream is facing some real challenges. It makes sense to be an integrated business, with the balance that a high-performing downstream business gives you. This new fuel is part of that great downstream business. It’s better for customers they will get more miles out of a tank of gas, so it really is better for the environment. This is a big step for us, and I hope, the industry."