Pumping Up The Sales

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A new fuel boasting enhanced cleaning properties may give Caltex something to shout about, but it’s also vital for the petrol brands to keep investing in new products and services to do battle in a crowded market place. By Rai Vikhnod

In the ongoing tussle for nozzle power, petrol companies launch new products with additives that promise enhanced performance while promising to keep vehicles in better shape for a longer time.

This is rather ironic since cars generally have a lifespan of 10 years in Singapore, and are given the opportunity of another 10 by paying exorbitant sums to the government for a piece of paper, called the Certificate of Entitlement (COE). In reality, many cars get sold before they turn five, and if the COE is low enough, they may be scrapped and exported well before the 10 years are up, so that the owner can purchase a new car.

With prohibitive taxes levied on vehicles and fuel, the whole business of owning a car in Singapore has long since made the journey from necessity to luxury. The fact that cars continue to roll out of showrooms and their numbers continue to rise regardless of proclamations to the effect that the car population has to be controlled points to the importance of this industry to lining the state’s coffers.

Powering this dichotomous relationship is Singapore’s role in the petroleum industry. As a major refining centre, there’s a lot to be said for ensuring its continued viability, evidenced by the various petrol brands seen along the road.

Meanwhile, customers do pay a pretty penny for their fuel. Regardless of the price of oil, pump prices manage to defy the odds, staying elevated. In the 2013 annual budget, it was announced that increases in duty for fuel would yield about $177 million a year.

While there are many international brands represented in Singapore, they invariably follow each other when it comes to prices at the pumps in almost telepathic synchronicity.

With a relatively young fleet on the roads, and the amounts paid for their cars, consumers are hopeful their vehicles will keep them on the road for a long time. The fuel they use is often of the highest possible octane rating.

Caltex, a Chevron brand, launched Caltex With Techron, a new fuel recently. Boasting Clean & Glide technology, it offers a slew of features that protects metal surfaces, reducing friction by up to 41% in the premium and ultra-premium segments.

Whether this will translate into greater sales volume is hard to tell. Car owners tend to gravitate towards the best offers in conjunction with their credit card or an affinity card, presuming the fuel on offer is of a consistent standard. Petrol companies invest heavily in market research to see what is needed to keep ahead, or at least within sniffing distance of the competition.

Shahid Ahmed, Chevron’s General Manager of Products for Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia, hopes the new five-star perol they have just rolled out will help build on their base.

The company’s annual market research shows that in Singapore, the top three performance indicators of a fuel are “smooth driving, economy and that it cleans the engine”. These were the guiding factors in rolling out the new and improved Caltex With Techron.

“It is important to note that at Caltex, the term ‘ultra-premium’ is not just a higher octane. We define it as giving drivers faster deposit clean up and more effective control of friction within the engine, helping you travel further.”

And to take the relationship with their customers further, Caltex has banked on loyalty programmes and partnerships with other parties. Caltex’s Plus! loyalty programme has over 1.75 million members who enjoy more than $50 million in savings annually.

As motorists keep having to pay more for their fuel, it’s only logical that they would like to see some of that money make a U-turn into their wallets.

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