The Federal Trade Commission has charged Quaker State - Slick 50, Inc., the manufacturer of Slick 50, the best-selling auto engine treatment in the U.S., with making false and unsubstantiated advertising claims. According to the FTC, ads for Slick 50 that tout tests showing improved engine performance are false and its claims of reduced engine wear are unsubstantiated.
Quaker State - Slick 50 is based in Houston, Texas. Since its 1978 introduction, Slick 50 has attracted about 30 million users world-wide. Slick 50 retails for about $18 a quart, and the company claims to have about 60% of the engine treatment market.
"Slick 50's ads claim that compared to motor oil alone, it reduces engine wear, lengthens engine life, and provides a host of other benefits. The claims sound good, but the evidence doesn't back them up,” said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We believe the ads exaggerate the lack of protection motor oils provide modern engines at start-up, as well as the risk of premature engine failure. The premature engine failure Slick 50 claims to guard against is uncommon, and the company lacks reliable evidence it would be prevented by using Slick 50, in any case," she said. "In fact, all the evidence we've seen so far suggests that the best thing you can do for your car’s engine is to get an oil change performed at manufacturer recommended intervals," she said. "People who want to maximize their automobile performance and enhance its long life should read the owner's manual and follow the directions.”
Slick 50 is the most recent in a series of FTC cases challenging allegedly deceptive ad claims for oil additives or high octane fuel. “Last year, STP Corporation and its parent corporation, First Brands, paid an $888,000 civil penalty to settle FTC charges that they were making false and unsubstantiated claims for their engine treatment," Bernstein said.
According to the FTC complaint detailing the charges in this case, Slick 50 aired television and radio commercials and published brochures carrying claims such as:
- "Every time you cold start your car without Slick 50 protection, metal grinds against metal in your engine...
- " With each turn of the ignition you do unseen damage, because at cold start- up most of the oil is down in the pan. But Slick 50's unique chemistry bonds to engine parts. It reduces wear up to 50% for 50, 000 miles," and;
- "What makes Slick 50 Automotive Engine Formula different is an advanced chemical support package designed to bond a specially activated PTFE to the metal in your engine."
According to the FTC, these claims and others falsely represented that auto engines generally have little or no protection from wear without Slick 50. It is uncommon, however, for engines to experience premature failure caused by wear, whether they are treated with Slick 50 or not. Finally, the FTC alleges that Slick 50 neither coats engine parts with a layer of PTFE nor meets military specifications for motor oil additives.
The FTC complaint also specifically charges that Slick 50 did not have adequate substantiation for its advertising claims that, compared to motor oil alone, the product:
- reduces engine wear;
- reduces engine wear by more than 50%;
- reduces engine wear by up to 50%;
- reduces engine wear at start-up;
- extends the duration of engine life;
- lowers engine temperatures;
- reduces toxic emissions;
- increases gas mileage; and
- increases horsepower.
The complaint also alleges that the company did not have adequate substantiation for its advertising claims that one treatment of Slick 50 continues to reduce wear for 50,000 miles and that it has been used in a significant number of U.S. government vehicles.
Finally, the complaint challenges ads stating that “tests prove” the engine wear claims made by Slick 50. In fact, according to the FTC complaint, tests do not prove that Slick 50 reduces engine wear at start up, or by 50%, or that one treatment reduces engine wear for 50,000 miles.
The order the FTC is seeking would prohibit misrepresentations about the benefits of using Slick 50 and require that ad claims be backed by competent and reliable evidence. In addition, if the facts are found as alleged, and issuance of a cease and desist order alone is inadequate to protect consumers, the Commission may require corrective advertising or other affirmative disclosures. It may also apply to a federal court to obtain restitution for consumers.
The complaint also names three subsidiaries: Slick 50 Management, Inc., Slick 50 Products Corp., and Slick 50 Corp.
The Commission vote to issue the complaint was 5-0.
NOTE: The Commission issues a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of a complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has violated the law. The complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be ruled upon after a formal hearing.
Copies of the complaint and an FTC brochure, "Penny Wise or Pump Fuelish" are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202- 326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http.//www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 932 3050)
(Docket No. D-9280)
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3042 or 202-326-3161