By Pramod Thomas:
Wolf Oil Corporation is a leading, independent producer of performance lubricants with over 60 years of expertise. Founded in 1955, the Belgium-based company is an independent family-owned entity. It is fully dedicated to developing, producing, distributing and marketing lubricants since 1955. The company produces 100 million litres of oil a year and carries out 7,200 blends annually. All Wolf products are on-site blended in Belgium. The products include passenger car motor oils, heavy duty motor oils, transmission fluids, brake/steering/levelling fluids, winter fluids, maintenance products, greases etc. Wolf Oil has a pioneering range of advanced, technology-enriched lubricants designed to enhance engine health, vitality and stamina.
The company has presence in more than 100 countries and has a unique collaboration with additive partners for direct access to the latest technologies and formulations. In Western Europe, Wolf Oil has around five percent market share. However, in the emerging markets, it is not a big player yet. But the company has big plans.
“Going forward, we want one percent of market share in the emerging markets, and in Western Europe and Belgium we want to be a leading oil manufacturer, growing by 10-15 percent every year,” Frederic Decroix, Global Marketing Director, Wolf Oil Corporation, told AutoParts Asia, on the sidelines of Automechanika Frankfurt 2018.
Decroix described this as “exciting times” for the automotive sector as “so much is happening” in this segment. He says that multiple megatrends are happening in the lubricants market across the globe.
“It is a very exciting time to be in the automotive sector. Currently, the segment is witnessing complete disruption. If you are looking at the megatrends that are happening globally, the first one is the consolidation of the aftermarket. We have noticed that various players are growing by merger and acquisition. This is a definite trend that we are now reckoning. Another very important change in the industry is that oil is becoming a spare part. This is also affecting the way we do our marketing. It means we are not dealing anymore with specialists, but we are going to deal with spare parts generalists. This gives us lots of opportunities to educate people to become specialists. If you look at a group like the US-based LKQ Corporation for instance, in the past, they were only active in America. We see that they are now acquiring major players like Stahlgruber GmbH in Europe. This is putting lots of pressure on the industry because in the past we used to deal with 50 players. But now the number has been reduced to a dozen. The fall in numbers is due to mergers and acquisitions which is the new business model now,” Decroix said.
Wolf Oil Corporation carefully watches these trends and is ready to make changes accordingly. Recently, Wolf has changed a division of the company and restructured it so that it gives a feeling that the company is not only specialists in lubricants but also want to be active in the mobility of tomorrow.
“Electrification is quite a buzzword now. But what is really happening across the world is that it is moving towards renewable. The future will be a mix of solutions. We will have pure electric vehicles. At the same time, we will have plug-ins, hybrid vehicles, and fuel cells. This is going to add next level of complexities for the lubricant manufacturers. If I take the example of hybrids, we see that the engines are becoming smaller and smaller, but are still expected to produce the same power.
This means that the technology has to be developed for the lubricants which are getting more and more complex. Electrification is definitely one of the threats that we are considering. But we are not afraid of this new trend. The future of IC Engine is still bright for the coming 20-30 years. We are still confident that the existing business model will remain for quite some time,” he said.
Another big change happening in the industry is the change in the vehicle ownership dynamics. Decroix is of the opinion that, in the future, fleet managers, not the end-users, will be the ultimate owners of vehicles.
“We look at this (change in vehicle ownership) from several angles. We have to evaluate these megatrends and try to come up with solutions. For example, we are moving away from car ownership to car usage to car as a service. Which means fleets will become more and more important. So, how do you serve those fleets? We can do it only by building a network and we are creating the network. Today it is limited, but we are working on it. Wolf Oil has taken the first concrete step this year with the launch of the network which service fleets. We will be able to propose a scope of offerings to the big fleets that will come in the future. Because they will be ultimately owning the vehicles; not the end-user anymore,” he said.
Wolf Oil is committed to delivering the highest levels of quality and performance, with products that set new standards of reliability and protection, Decroix said.
The company continues to offer innovative products and services. `Champion’ is the globally renowned brand from the Belgian company. Champion has the adaptive shield technology, which is a combination of additive chemistries that shield engine parts from internal and external factors. The Champion will also launch local ranges to face specific regional needs. Wolf Oil has launched the Smart Oil Cabin at Automechanika Frankfurt 2018. It helps independent garages service their customers with the right oil at the right time, ensuring garages always have sufficient supply of the products they need. It offers automated monitoring of oil levels, and automated ordering when levels go down through mobile app integration. It saves time and energy and increases efficiency
Decroix said it is the result of close collaboration between the company’s Development team and its Marketing department and is set for launch in Q1 2019. With eight bays for 20 litre bottles and two spaces for 60 litre barrels, the Smart Oil Cabin connects to the Wolf Lubes network, with a link to the customer’s distributor or retail supplier. Internal and/or external sensors provide a constant measurement of fluid levels in the bottles and barrels, providing accurate availability data to the system.
“Our ambition is clear. We are looking at a double-digit growth year after year. We also want to expand globally. For the moment, the priority is to consolidate operations in the domestic market, where we have distributors. We also continue looking for distribution partners in the emerging markets. There the focus will be on the Middle East, China, and we are also considering penetrating into the North American markets as well. Currently, we are distributing our products in more than 100 countries. Most revenue for Wolf Oil is coming from the Western Europe markets. But we see Africa growing so is the case with the Middle East. We started recently in Asia (China) but are growing exponentially there. In China, we have got a good distribution partner and we are setting up the network in all provinces there. We have our office in Shanghai and we are consolidating the business there,” he said.
Recently, Wolf introduced a proprietary technology that contains as many as 20 active ingredients to form a unique Multifactor Oil Serum complex. This serum is specifically formulated to reduce oxidation and keep engines younger for longer while curbing emissions and helping to reduce harmful pollutants. The benefits are that it keeps the engine clean, increases fuel economy, improves engine protection, extends drain intervals and lowers CO2 emissions.
“We attach as much importance to the quality of our products as we do to the quality of our service. Moreover, thanks to our dedicated R&D team, the on-site laboratory and ISO certification, we guarantee the highest quality in every step of our production process. This approach gives us a unique edge within our competitive industry. We welcome the many challenges of producing lubricants of the highest quality,” Decroix said.
Wolf Oil has inked a partnership with the leading name in global motorsport: the FIA World Rally Championship. From 2019, Wolf Lubes becomes the official and exclusive lubricants partner of WRC. In 2019, Wolf’s brand Champion plans to launch a motorcycle range, classic car range, an annex range composed of maintenance products and an expansion of the current product range to meet the latest standard, adaptive shield technology.
The company is weighing options to open production facilities outside Belgium. “For the moment, we don’t have any other production centres. We may consider this in the future if we see that we are reaching our capacity limit. Discussions are going on to set up a facility outside Europe. Initially, it will be like a warehouse. There are some entry barriers in certain markets. We also take these factors into consideration when we try to start a new facility. However, going forward we are considering setting up a production unit outside Europe,” Decroix said.