LOCAL REPORT USA Paul Stephenson, OATS Ltd

The United States is arguably the most advanced, industrialised country in the world, with an estimated 328m population in 2019 (4.3% of the world’s total inhabitants) living in a land area of 9.15 million square kilometers made up of 50 states. Some 83% of the population is urban.

The US boasts a nominal GDP of US$21.4 trillion in 2019 having more than doubled in 20 years, although the expectation for 2020 is set at US$20.7. Predictions show a short-term, significant economic downturn as a result of the pandemic that will impact the automotive sector.

The vehicle parc, manufacturing and sales The total US vehicle parc in 2019 was 286m. With almost 228m licensed drivers, the ratio of US drivers per vehicle at 1.1 is the lowest anywhere in the world.

The largest segment is light trucks, largely comprising pick-ups. The most popular – outselling any other US vehicle – is Ford’s F-Series. In car sales, Japanese manufacturers dominate, with the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla the top three. Tesla’s all-electric Model 3 ranked ninth in 2020 - its launch year.

Despite Tesla’s success, hybrid vehicle sales accounted for just 4.3% of the US market in 2019 – around 722,000 from total sales of 16.9m – an increase of just 0.5% since 2013.

US vehicle and parts manufacturing grossed US$780bn in 2019 with domestic vehicle production dipping to 92m vehicles, its lowest since 2010. The aftermarket industry is worth an estimated US$405bn.

Oil production From first drilling in 1859 to the present day, the oil industry has played a major role in the US economy. Currently, supply comes from 135 operating refineries, mostly situated around the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, with Motiva’s upgraded Port Arthur, Texas refinery set to be the largest as of 2020 with a 607,000 b/d capacity. In 2019 petroleum production reached 19.25m b/d, making the US virtually

34 LUBE MAGAZINE NO.158 AUGUST 2020 self-sufficient in meeting its 20.46m b/d consumption.

Lubricants production and market Home to the International Lubricants Standardization and Approval Committee (ILSAC) and American Petroleum Institute (API), the US influences global lubes standards in testing, specification and marketing. Domestic producers include ExxonMobil, Chevron, Valvoline, Phillips 66 and Pennzoil but the independents still have a strong presence and market share, supported by ILMA.

The US lubricants market is worth around US$20bn, with continued slow growth predicted for the next five years. The automotive sector takes the largest share of the market by a significant margin. The penetration of high-performance engine oils has increased in line with new vehicle sales and the increase in ultra-high performance 0W20 and 0W16 products has been significant for 2015 registered vehicles onwards. Of the others, 5W20 and 5W30 specifications take the majority share.

Specification breakdown shows GF-4 and GF-4/ SN dominating at more than 14%. However, GF-5 combined products take an 11% share. Amongst manufacturer-specific lubricants, Ford dominate the sector, followed by General Motors and Chrysler.

In summary

The automotive sector has not escaped the impact of the pandemic, but may have been less hard hit than other countries. Automotive parts retailers and workshops remained open, being considered ‘essential services’.

It appears the electric vehicle (EV) segment is set to grow more slowly in the US than the rest of the world, particularly with the current administration continuing to support strongly the oil and gas industry. In summary, don’t bet on the wheels of the light truck sector coming off any time soon!


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