Some car owners across the U.S. complained about a motor oil shortage in 2022. The lack of product wasn't confined to 2022 but also appeared to be an issue in 2021 as well. During both years, some people had a hard time getting motor oil for their cars. Did the motor oil shortage in the U.S. clear up in 2023 or is it still an issue?
Like other industries, the automotive industry has been impacted by global supply chain issues. While there are varying estimates, the global automotive industry likely lost over 11 million units of production in 2021. The dollar amount even looked staggering and was estimated to be in excess of $200 billion in 2022.
So, how are things looking in 2023? Here's what we know about the U.S. motor oil shortage and whether consumers need to be worried about it now.
What's going on with the motor oil shortage?
Last year, multiple car owners broadcasted complaints about a motor oil shortage on social sites like Twitter and Reddit. Despite the struggles many consumers faced at finding the right type of oil for their vehicles, there wasn't a major nationwide motor oil shortage happening in 2022. Retailers seemed to have an ample supply of oil (according to their websites) which meant the product was widely available (to most people).
Still, some consumers couldn't get their hands on motor oil at their local stores. So far in 2023, there isn't a widespread motor oil shortage. Supply chain issues continue to improve and most consumers can find motor oil.
Perhaps the reason some shoppers weren't able to purchase motor oil is because certain grades of it weren't available for delivery. When we consider the broader supply chain issues that were plaguing U.S. retail chains and e-commerce companies, it makes sense that some products were harder to come by if the supplies needed to manufacture them were also running low.
The truck driver shortage also didn't help when supply chain issues hit a peak in 2022.
How is motor oil produced?
Motor oil is made of two components. Base oils account for most of the motor oil while additives make up the rest. The additives include anti-wear additives, friction modifiers, dispersants, detergents, and friction modifiers. There are two types of motor oil — conventional oil and synthetic oil.
What's motor oil used for?
Motor oil serves multiple purposes. It helps lubricate the moving parts and lowers the wear and tear on motor parts. It also helps protect the emission systems and enhances the vehicle’s energy efficiency. Motor oil needs to be changed regularly and not doing so can severely damage the engine.
What companies are the largest motor oil producers?
Global energy giants like Shell, ExxonMobil, BP, and Valvoline produce motor oil. During the time consumers complained about the motor oil shortage, it appears the issue wasn't big enough for them to discuss during their early 2022 earnings calls.
Do electric cars need motor oil?
The global automotive industry is pivoting towards electric cars, which don’t need motor oil. While electric cars have a higher upfront price, they're cheaper in the long term. The maintenance costs are lower and running an electric car is much cheaper than an ICE (internal combustion motor) car.
Amid the current gasoline prices, electric vehicle sales have been soaring. Tesla delivered 936,000 cars in 2021, which was a new milestone for the Elon Musk-run company. Legacy automakers have been investing to ramp up their electric vehicle production and the industry looks set for high growth over the next decade.