2018 was a year of change for the lubricant industry. Emerging technology, increased focus on American energy and a shifting automotive landscape have all left their mark on all of the industries in PetroChoice’s orbit. While 2018 saw major advances and market changes begin to take root, 2019 could be the year they come to fruition. Here are some things to look for going forward.
The Continued Rise of Autonomous Vehicles – Self Driving vehicles are here to stay and 2019 may be the year they become a permanent fixture, especially in commercial applications. Several automakers have begun partnerships with other companies on autonomous vehicle programs to make deliveries and provide other services. These vehicles could pose a significant challenge for fleet managers, as they will likely require sweeping changes to maintenance strategies. It’s also likely new safety standards or even laws will need to be considered.
Big Vehicles Make a Comeback – American automakers began a drastic shift back toward pickup trucks and SUVs in 2018 and that shift will likely become more extreme in 2019. Ford, in particular, has decided to shift almost all of its focus to larger vehicles as they plan to discontinue almost all of their small vehicle models. By 2020, only the Mustang and Focus will remain in production. Other automakers have also announced plans to slash the number of sedans, coupes and other small cars they produce. The shift back to larger vehicles could result in a shift in the lubricant industry, as these vehicles have different requirements than their smaller counterparts.
A Continued Surge in American Energy – Oil Prices were somewhat volatile in 2018, peaking in October before plummeting to end the year. One thing that has remained consistent is a renewed focus on oil and natural gas production in the United States. The United States is now the world’s largest crude oil producer with an average production of about 11.4 million barrels per day. For a brief period in November, it even became a net exporter of petroleum products for the first time since 1991. A new discovery in the already large Permian Basin will only add to American supply and allow its output to grow. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is predicting average production will average about 12.1 million barrels per day in 2019.
New Technology will Require New Skills – New, more advanced technology has found its way into just about every industry. From automotive to manufacturing, mining to metalworking and everywhere in between, tech is advancing and becoming an essential part of doing business. That will certainly continue in 2019, particularly in the automotive industry where manufacturers continue to pack their vehicles with more and more gadgets. While all the new technology can increase efficiency and improve customer experience, it also means people in those industries will need to adapt their skills. Equipment and vehicles that use new tech are more difficult to repair and, at least initially, more difficult to operate. Mechanics, fleet managers, machinists and others will have to re-think the way they train and the skills they need to keep up with the changes.