Based on industry concerns American and Japanese automakers have informally agreed to delay the implementation of the new GF-4 engine oil standards, the industry’s most comprehensive overhaul of engine lubricant standards in nearly 10 years. The one-year postponement of GF-4 standards, which were to take effect next fall, was reported during a meeting between automakers, oil company representatives and the International Lubricants and Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) in Ann Arbor, Mich. on July 10. One group early to raise objections was the Automotive Oil Change Association (AOCA), a non-profit trade organization representing the fast-lube industry. “The AOCA’s primary objection, voiced repeatedly during the past year, has centered on ‘backward compatibility’ for vehicles manufactured prior to 2003,” said Steve Christie, AOCA executive director. “Whether the new GF-4 oils will effectively protect older model cars is an issue that could create havoc in the fast-lube industry.” “Fast-lube operators are, for the most part, independent owners with one or two shops,” said Christie. “Our members want to be certain that when they add these new, and thinner grades within the GF-4 category of oils to their customers’ vehicles, that the oil protects the engine.” Although automakers have referenced their own data indicating that older engines will be able to safely use the new GF-4 oils, AOCA would at least like to review test data, he said. “To date, the auto manufacturers have not been willing to share test data related GF-4, which frankly, makes us wonder whether it actually exists,” Christie said. “Our interest is protecting our customers who will want to know why they have to use a new, much more expensive oil in their cars — and whether that oil is protecting the engine the way it should.” GF-4 oils will be made from a higher-grade base stock, significantly increasing the cost to almost double the per-quart price in most cases, he said. “Our 1,200 members are launching an educational campaign with their customers on the issues of higher cost and backward compatibility,” Christie said. “Consumers deserve to know how these new standards affect their vehicles and their pocketbook.” The ambitious goals of the new GF-4 oils — protecting new emissions control devices, improving gas mileage, better cold-temperature performance and durability under high temperatures and high loads — all while protecting engines in existing cars may not be possible or practical, according to oil and additive manufacturers. “The automakers have asked motor oil to do just about all that a lubricant can do as far as improving mileage and emissions,” Christie said. “Now they are going to have to go back and revisit their engine and emission system designs.” The Environmental Protection Agency has requested that automobile manufacturers work with AOCA and the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association on developing a reasonable set of standards that do not result in decreased engine protection levels or significantly higher consumer prices, while insuring that the new engine oils are compatible with older model automobiles.