By Craig Paterson
Vice President, Product Management

Today’s everyday drivers expect a lot from a new vehicle purchase. Sale prices of new vehicles have climbed in recent years and recently hit a record high in the United States. According to Kelley Blue Book, the estimated average transaction price for light vehicles hit just over $36,000 as of December 2017.

Drivers want their cars to last, performing to myriad expectations around reliability, fuel economy, and other factors, over the long run. As vehicles continue to evolve, they become more and more sophisticated. And where the automotive industry once conceived of “durability” as primarily centered around engine performance, it’s a term we must increasingly apply throughout the entire vehicle. Emissions and fuel economy needs have driven changes, and fluids used throughout play an increasingly vital function.

The passenger car transmission provides a good example: Years ago, a four-speed automatic transmission operated relatively simply. As a driver, you’d feel the shift as the transmission changed gears. Today, “feeling the shift” is something that automakers have worked hard to eliminate entirely, developing 10 speed and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) that change gears seamlessly. Clutches have become far more sophisticated to achieve that goal, as have transmission fluids, with the incorporation of new friction modifiers and other additives into their formulation.

We’ve extensively documented this shift on Lubrizol Additives 360 as it pertains to engine technology and engine lubrication. But it’s part of a broader conversation in which all industry stakeholders must be invested. As sophistication increases throughout the vehicle and the drivetrain, the maintenance of new components makes overall long-term durability a more complex proposition.

It’s not just drivers who expect their new vehicles to live a long and useful life, and the ways the industry is evaluating durability and performance are changing. Regulators and other stakeholders are increasingly placing new importance on real-world results—not just certified numbers from lab tests. This is spurred in part by the lingering impact of “dieselgate,” the extensive illegal manipulation of diesel engine emissions that caused widespread outrage among regulators and consumers who believed they were making conscientious vehicle purchases back in 2015.

Further, it’s recently been shown that the average real-world emissions performance of many vehicles underperforms by as much as 40 percent when it comes to NOx and CO2 emissions within the European marketplace. There are numerous reasons for this, but one thing is critical: No vehicle can maintain its intended emissions and fuel economy performance without being continually serviced with the right high-performance fluids throughout its lifetime. And it’s contingent upon the ability of the lubricants industry to deliver on those needs.

Our view: Durability—across the entire drivetrain—is important, now more so than ever before in our industry. As global governments and regulators look to push sustainability to greater heights across a broad spectrum of products and services, vehicles that operate at a consistent level of efficiency throughout their lifetimes are an important piece of the puzzle.

To those ends, OEMs must look to achieve increasingly high standards in real-world performance. And it’s incumbent upon the lubricants industry to help reach those goals. We play a fundamental role in the durability story, and in helping vehicles of all types achieve increasingly necessary real-world performance.