Germany-based oil, lubricant and additive specialist Liqui Moly has been making rapid strides in the Indian market. The company has been traditionally focusing on the automotive segment and offers a wide range of motor oils that meet the lubricant needs of all vehicles. Auto Tech Review caught up with Michael Karl, Export Area Manager, Liqui Moly to know more about how the company is geared up to address the lubricant challenges in India.
With higher-performance vehicles hitting the market, the need for specialised lubricants is increasing. For modern engines, motor oils are more like fluid spare parts that need to fit exactly to a specific engine. Using the wrong motor oil is like installing the wrong spare part, Karl said. He stated that it is not just a matter of mineral versus synthetic oil; the focus should be on picking the right synthetic oil instead of any synthetic oil.
Lubricants are essentially meant to ensure smooth functioning of the engine. Karl said the onus on lubricant makers like Liqui Moly in contemporary times has gone far beyond lubricating the moving parts of the engine. Motor oils are required to remove deposits from the surfaces and keep them floating until they end up in the oil filter. Such motor oils need to neutralise acid components and make the engine corrosion-free and should be able to function even at high temperatures and pressures. These oils must be able to survive far longer oil change intervals than in the past and they need to be compatible with modern exhaust gas treatment systems, Karl added.
There is heightened focus among car manufacturers across the globe on reducing emissions. The scenario isn’t any different in India. With BS VI emission norms kicking-in in April 2020, Indian OEMs are working overtime to meet the stringent targets. Karl said carmakers all over the globe will have to improve their engine designs if they are to attain their emission-reduction goal. And the need for improved engine designs sums up the way the Indian automotive lubricant industry is witnessing a persistent shift from conventional mineral oils to synthetic oils.
New engine designs require oil properties that cannot be served by mineral oils because they are chemically heterogeneous, while synthetic oils, on the other hand, are chemically homogeneous and deliver a far better performance. The reason is that most of the performance of a modern motor oil comes not from the base oil itself but from the additive packages, Karl explains. These additive packages need a homogeneous oil to be able to deliver top performance. The passenger car segment is embracing synthetic oils and the bus and truck segments are expected to follow suit.
The upcoming BS VI norms will necessitate the need for reduced sulphur levels in fuel. Such reduced sulphur levels will result in higher wear in the moving parts of an engine. Karl said not just fuel, even engine oil for vehicles need to have low sulphur content. The high sulphur level in diesel fuel showed the side effect of providing additional lubrication over many decades. The combustion residues of sulphur will interfere with exhaust treatment systems like the diesel particulate filter that will be clogged prematurely. The company’s so-called low SAPS (sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulphur) oils come with special additives that leverage different technologies to provide the required lubrication, Karl explained.
In recent times, motor oil is increasingly becoming thinner, as they have less inner friction and is easier to pump, said Karl.
Liqui Moly is fully aware of the fact that it cannot compete on price in the Indian market. Since all its lubricants are produced only in Germany, bringing it to India through the import route pushes up the prices by a significant amount. Karl agrees that its products are expensive in India but does not see it as a hindrance. The company does not want to come cheap but want to be the best, he added.
Karl believes that the modernisation of the vehicle fleet in India will create demand for more sophisticated and more specialised oil instead of simple mineral oil. This is an area where the company is looking to grow its business in India, Karl noted. Liqui Moly has tripled its turnover over the last 11 years and has achieved it organically without undertaking any acquisitions. The company is upbeat about continuing its robust growth journey in the years to come.
TEXT: Suhrid Barua