The Fitcar product monitors the car’s functionalities in real time enabling the driver to keep track of any problems arising from the engine, lubrication among other functionalities.
Royal Dutch Shell aims to install Fitbit-type monitors in a million cars this year as part of an expansion of its consumer-facing oil products business.The Anglo-Dutch group has tested its Fitcar product in about 3,000 vehicles in the United States, offering a transport equivalent to wearable health devices.
The monitor sends data from the car to apps on owners’ phones to alert them to emerging problems with engines, for example. In America, the devices have prompted drivers to visit Shell’s network of more than 2,000 service stations for an oil change or maintenance.
Shell is Europe’s biggest Oil and Gas Company, generating profits of $3.7 billion in the third quarter from a business spanning exploratory drilling to fuel retailing. Ben van Beurden, its chief executive, said in November last year that the company was increasing investment in its oil products business “to add materiality to this very differentiated and high-returns part of our portfolio, particularly in marketing”.
This includes its lubricants business, which makes 2,500 oil products and has an 11 per cent market share around the world.
“One in nine machines, whether a car or bus or industry, is protected by Shell lubricants,” HuibertVigeveno, executive vice-president of its global commercial division, which comprises lubricants, aviation fuels and marketing, said, adding that he saw strong growth potential for the group’s premium engine lubricants products, which promise to help to improve vehicle efficiency.
The Fitcar offering is one way that Shell aims to expand its market share, initially through its Jiffy Lube service station subsidiary in the US. If successful, it could roll the product out to other markets, including Britain.
The technology works using a device costing between $50 and $100 that plugs into the car’s diagnostics port, usually located below the dashboard. This sends data to an app. Shell said that it could help to save customers money by identifying problems before the car breaks down.
“The proposition is you can have an app and you’ll be able to see what’s going on, how many kilometres you are driving, how much fuel you are using, how your lubrication is going”, added Vigeveno.
He suggested that there was particular appetite for such products among younger drivers, who were “not as closely affiliated with their cars as maybe the generation before”.