All Together Now: Manufacturers have growing say in vehicle spec’s

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It is impossible to talk about engine oils without tapping into the benefits that have emerged with new CK4 and fuel-efficient FA4 formulas. The story was no different when Total invited members of our editorial team to visit a blending facility in Montreal, where the world’s fourth-largest oil company prepares and bottles lubricants for a wide variety of industries and applications.

But in a technical briefing after the tour, technical commercial senior consultant Andre Bolduc dropped a personal observation that sent everyone to their notepads. The latest changes were governed by the American Petroleum Institute (API), but he expects equipment manufacturers themselves to take a larger role in the oils to come.

 “In the future, the OEM will drive the product you need for your vehicle,” Bolduc predicted. It’s already happening elsewhere in the world, where manufacturers set agendas under the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) and Japanese Automotive Standards Organization (JASO), he said. “More and more, manufacturers are designing the new engines with the oil. The oil is part of the original design of the engine, so they will have more and more specific specifications.”

It’s already happening in North America to some extent. Detroit Diesel doesn’t call for a CK4 oil, for example. It calls for a 93K222 formula that meets its unique testing requirements, Bolduc said. With tighter controls on oils, meanwhile, drain intervals are pushing out further than ever.

“The OEM approval will be the decider of what product you need for your vehicle, and it’s very possible you will have multiple products.”

We don’t often hear that observation when it comes to engine oils, but there is no mistaking the fact that manufacturers are playing an increasing role in all the spec’ing options for heavy-duty vehicles.

Vertical integration – where trucks and powertrains come from the same company – has already become commonplace. Think of Freightliners with Detroit engines, Volvos with Volvos, Macks with Macks, and Kenworths or Peterbilt’s with PACCAR models. Transmissions increasingly carry the names of the trucks in which they are installed. Only a few decades ago, the idea would have been considered heresy; something that should be left to automakers.

Even individual suppliers are finding new ways to more closely integrate products, as we have seen with the SmartAdvantage powertrains that marry Cummins engines and Eaton Fuller Advantage Automated Manual Transmissions.

Get used to it, because there will be more integration to come. The second round of Greenhouse Gas emission standards will require supplier to be more prescriptive in the choice of everything from tires to oils as equipment rolls off an assembly line.

The integration may not even be limited to North America. Imagine the lessons that are being shared between Europe and North America. Volvo and Mack are connected to Renault. Volkswagen now has a stake in Navistar, with the promise to develop a related powertrain. Kenworth is connected to DAF. Freightliner, Western Star and Mercedes are all part of the same family.

Yes, there will always be a role for some unique spec’s. The trucking industry’s applications are too diverse to cram everything into a neat little box. But there can be plenty of benefits waiting for those who are able to accept offerings that do come packaged together, seamlessly sharing the data that can be used to maximize power and performance alike.














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John G. Smith is Newcom Media's vice-president - editorial, and the editorial director of its trucking publications -- including Today's Trucking,, and Transport Routier. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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