PMM sits down with Charlene O’Connor, CEO of Fueltone, to find out more about the additive and engine treatment specialist.
PMM: Could you please provide a little bit of background to Fueltone? How did it all begin?
Charlene O’Connor (CO): The business idea arose from looking for ways to improve emissions from commercial and passenger vehicles to ensure MOT passes. We started from the point of somehow improving engine combustion, which would then have the knock-on effect of reducing the particulates in the exhaust gases. We brought in proof-of-concept investment and developed our first product, the Fueltone Pro Diesel Additive. When we put this through independent testing, it showed up to an 86% reduction in particulate emissions, so we knew we were on to a winner. From there the business was born.
PMM: Could you briefly outline Fueltone’s product portfolio?
CO: From this first product, we quickly developed other products in the range. This was mainly driven by our growing customer base. We found out that the diesel product was very popular, which led to customers asking for something similar for petrol engines. So, we set about developing our petrol range. A similar drive took us into developing solutions for other engine issues e.g. Engine Flush, Diesel System Primer and our new DPF Foam Burst. The DPF Foam was a direct result of our customers clamouring for a solution to expensive, blocked DPFs and is already a bestseller.
Underpinning all our products is an understanding of the issues we’re trying to fix and a desire to provide something unique to the market.
PMM: How did you know your products would be successful?
CO: It was a gamble at the start, but we always use the same approach to developing products by asking ourselves the right questions: What’s the problem we’re trying to solve (talk to customers)? Can we find a commercial solution? Is there a market for it (is it solving a big problem)? And, can we make it affordable for our customers? Stick to that formula and we generally succeed. The one proviso for us as a business is don’t confuse our customers; make the range easy to understand and navigate, however tempting it is to keep bringing in new products.
PMM: Are your products a reaction to specific industry trends in fuelling systems?
CO: We would say it’s a mix. We look at the market direction, industry trends (from developments in fuel, engines, emissions control and so on), as well as listening to our customers. We are known for innovation and have brought in unique products such as Diesel System Primer, which was a first on the market, and unique variations such as an engine flush with a very short run time.
PMM: Are Fueltone products designed with a specific type of vehicle (or driving style) in mind?
CO: Our core tank additives have a wide appeal as they are designed to improve combustion efficiency, which subsequently leads to better economy and emissions. That works for every segment of the market.
Other products such as DPF treatment and cleaners are obviously more targeted but have an appeal across domestic and commercial markets, too. Who doesn’t want to save money?
PMM: Why should independent garages use Fueltone products?
CO: Our two major strap lines are ‘First Choice’ and ‘Another Tool in Your Toolbox’. Our products are a first stop for garage mechanics when solving tricky problems such as injector issues, MOT fails and blocked DPFs. They work and provide cost-effective solutions. Our engine flush is a great example of this, as it cuts run time to 2-5 minutes, which frees up ramp time. We also offer cost-effective multi-dose solutions that help garages keep their costs down, whilst offering an additional revenue stream.
PMM: Is this a preventative treatment (as opposed to reactionary)? If so, how can garages explain this to their customers?
CO: It’s not only in the motor trade that folks find the prevention message hard to swallow. It’s usually not until they face a big and probably expensive issue that the message hits home. Take DPF treatments for example. One of our garage customers that has been using Fueltone Pro DPF for years during servicing, rarely sees blocked DPF issues now as the prevention works – and saves customers hundreds of pounds on DPF fixes. To help garages, we produce a range of leaflets and other information, but it continues to be a difficult message to get across. The servicing and MOT market is crazily competitive and garages often struggle.
PMM: What are your thoughts on the rise in EV/hybrid technology?
CO: There is no doubt that our use of fossil fuels has to change, and the idea of EVs and hybrids is compelling. It’s obviously early days for the technology, and I’m sure the current issues on range, costs, etc. will be overcome in time.
One of the big issues is the generation capacity to meet the required switch-over volumes that would make a big enough environmental impact. If we continue to use fossil fuels to generate the electricity that powers these vehicles, the gains will not come as fast as we need. For the UK to make enough electricity to power the target number of EV’s, we’d need a massive investment in clean power generation.