Jody DeVere: The auto industry gets greener every day – are you keeping up?

Jody DeVere

When someone asks what the cleanest industry is, the automotive industry isn’t at the top of most people’s list. Unfortunately, the combustion engine has contributed to some major problems today.

Vehicles are a major source of carbon emissions which contribute to climate change, and our dependence upon fossil fuels in general has led to many environmental disasters such as oil spills.

The auto industry is perceived by many people as being greasy, dirty, and the opposite of eco-friendly. However, I’m here to tell you that reputation is ready to be challenged, and here’s how you can do it.

Recycling Engine Oil

One of the most common fluids we deal with in the auto industry is engine oil. Oil changes are by far the most common reason for a service visit, and so dealers, service centers, quick lubes, and even tire dealers have to contend with a whole lot of used oil. Used oil is dark and viscous, because it’s full of impurities like dirt, metal shards, chemicals, and water. This is oil that shouldn’t be used in any engine – that’s why you have to take it out – but that doesn’t mean it’s reached the end of its life.

We all know that used oil is a terrible pollutant that must be disposed of properly or recycled. Local waste management programs typically deal with used engine oil. What happens to it? Often, it gets recycled. Recycling oil is the best way to deal with it – it is definitely prevented from ever polluting the soil and water supply, and it helps to reduce the amount of oil we need to continue extracting from the earth. In fact, engine oil that’s been used isn’t past its usefulness or worn out – it’s just dirty!

Cleaning engine oil is called re-refining. Re-refining oil not only prolongs the life of existing oil, reducing pollutants, it also requires less energy than refining crude oil. In fact, just one gallon of used engine oil will produce the same amount of fresh new re-refined oil as a whopping 42 gallons of crude oil!

Re-Refined Oil vs. Synthetic Oil

While we’re talking about green engine oils, if you don’t currently offer re-refined and/or synthetic motor oils, we’d like to urge you to consider it. As we mentioned, re-refined oil has gone through an extensive process to restore it back to the pristine condition of brand new virgin oil. Re-refined oil is often used to create transmission fluid, grease, and other lubricants, but it’s also repackaged again as engine oil. What’s the difference? Nothing at all – re-refined oil is chemically identical to fresh engine oil. The only difference is that re-refined oil is an environmentally responsible choice.

There are also synthetic oils, which are quite common. You may guess that synthetic oils are environmentally sensible, but this isn’t necessarily true. Contrary to what the name suggests, synthetic oils are still petroleum products. The difference is that unlike conventional oil, which is thick and viscous at low temperatures and thinner at high temperatures, synthetic oil doesn’t change viscosity, and so it requires fewer additives and will not degrade over time. In short, synthetic oil is much better for an engine and lasts longer than conventional oil, but it’s not the green choice that re-refined oil is. Knowing the difference will help you to better educate your customers.

Green Business Practices and Vehicle Recycling

The car business is becoming more green from the beginning, starting when the vehicle is build. In the last few years, car manufacturing has become much more green thanks to the incorporation of recycled materials. About 80% of a car is recyclable, and more and more car makers are today turning to recycled materials to make new vehicles. Materials like plastic, fabrics, steel, and aluminum can be recycled, not to mention the rubber in tires, hoses, and belts. Ford made international waves in 2018 when it announced that each of its vehicles would contain 250 bottles worth of recycled plastic, with other manufacturers like Volvo following suit in their commitment to using recycled materials.

How can this help your business? Knowledge is power, so for the car dealers, knowing which vehicles are made with which recycled materials puts you in a position to really resonate with women customers, who tend to rank environmentally responsible companies higher than others. In the service, tire, and collision repair business, this gives you more of a reason to pay attention to what happens to the old tires and parts that you remove from vehicles. Are you recycling as much as you can? Look into your options locally for recycling old vehicle materials, and most importantly, make sure you are communicating your great green practices with your customers.

Electric Vehicles Are Saving the Planet

Electric vehicles are today one of the most innovative technologies in the auto industry, and if you’re not paying attention to them, you should start. Electric vehicles promise to significantly reduce the costs of owning and operating a vehicle, as well as reducing the amount of Carbon Dioxide emissions associated with transportation in general. Statistics show that electric vehicles will soon outnumber gasoline vehicles, and they could replace them altogether sooner than we think. In 2019, Volvo announced that all their new models will be hybrid or electric, and they will not be the last manufacturer to make this commitment.

For dealers, you’ll want to increase your hybrid and electric vehicle inventory to meet demand. The number of charging stations nationwide is increasing every year, and you want to show your customers that you’re committed to protecting the planet with your vehicles. In the service and repair business, if you don’t already service hybrid and electric vehicles, you’ll want to change that. There are many hybrid and electric vehicle service training programs and certifications available to help you position yourself as the first choice for hybrid or electric vehicle repair.

The Future is Green

Across the auto industry, the dirty reputation continues to get a little cleaner, and a little greener, every day. Even a small step communicates a big commitment to your customers. It could be as simple as switching entirely to LED lighting, as unique as offering re-refined oil or focusing on electrics and hybrids, or as comprehensive as incorporating recycled materials in your building’s materials and landscaping. Did you know you can get mulch made of recycled tires? There are many, many ways for you to make your automotive business a little bit greener. So, if you find yourself stuck in the greasy, dirty past, take some steps toward making your business more eco-conscious today – your customers will notice!

Jody DeVere, CEO of, is an authority on marketing to women, as well as an automotive journalist, car-care expert and safety spokesperson for the industry. You can reach her at