Interview with Alexander Krylov, Regional Sales Director, Gazprom Neft
July 2011 г. Journal Modern Gas Station.
In early April Gazprom Neft unveiled their fuel of the new generation, G-Drive. The new fuel was released by way of a trial run in December last year in the North-West region. As noted within the company, the new product attracted great interest among consumers, and 20% of clients have already moved from Ai-95 to G-Drive. Alexander Krylov, Gazprom Neft's Regional Sales Director, spoke to us about the story of the new brand's creation, its technical specifications and plans for its implementation in Russia.
Mr Krylov, the introduction of branded fuel is a brave step. Why was it necessary to launch a new product?
— This step is entirely in line with current trends in the market for retail fuel. I have in mind both a desire to differentiate ourselves from competitors, and increase consumer loyalty to our company. Our own strong, modern and dynamic brand of motor fuels is an obvious advantage in a competitive market and a necessary condition to attract new clients. In addition, due to the increased number of foreign cars in use, the market is currently experiencing an increase in the consumption of high-octane gasoline and increased demand for premium fuels. This is a huge market with good growth prospects. In 2009 the company incorporated into its strategy a program to improve the quality of motor fuels, according to which, in December 2010, we added a new generation of petrol, G-Drive, to Gazprom Neft’s range of premium products.
Why did you choose December?
— The pilot project was launched at the end of 2010 in St Petersburg, and was extremely successful. In the first months following the launch, G-Drive’s share in the total sales of Ai-95 at Gazprom Neft filling stations in the North-West region was 20%. Having got very good results in April, we decided to formally present the new fuel and replicate the project in other regions.
Why did you name the fuel G-Drive?
— The first premium brand released last year by Gazprom Neft was the G-Energy line of motor oils, and the entire product range is called G-Family. The application of advanced technologies, the use of advanced components in the recipe and, accordingly, the optimum performance, allow these oils to take their rightful place in the Russian and European markets. G-Drive brand motor fuel fits into the line of premium products and the company maintains the philosophy of dynamism, progress and high quality. The word “Drive”, of course, means “motion” in English, and the word has even more connotations in Russian; when we say “drive” we refer to thrust, energy, positive emotion.
What are the main differences between G-Drive and conventional petrol?
— The new fuel has an octane rating of 95, while delivering improved performance compared to conventional
What are the basic specifications of the new product?
— The G-Drive fuel includes a thermostable element, a friction modifier, which creates a protective film between the piston and the cylinder of the engine, minimising friction. This increases the efficiency of the engine as a whole, ensuring an increase in power and improving the dynamics.
Of course, before it entered the market, the fuel passed independent tests with vehicles of various brands, which showed that, when using G-Drive, a car’s engine power is increased by up to 8.6%, and the dynamics is increased by up to 1.5 seconds. The new fuel also improves engine reliability. For this purpose, the complex of active additives includes detergents. Thanks to them, constant use of G-Drive results in up to 10 times less deposits on intake valves and fuel injectors compared with conventional fuels. In modern engines with direct injection, where fuel directly enters the cylinder, a clean fuel injector is of direct importance. Performance parameters, efficiency and lifespan of the engine all depend on droplet size and the nature of distribution. Special components of the detergents destroy the structure of the deposits, “loosening” them, and the dirt is then removed gradually by the flow of fuel.
It is important, of course, that use of G-Drive petrol helps to reduce pollutants in automotive emissions. We undertook specific investigations, and found that the carbon monoxide in the exhaust is reduced by 22%, hydrocarbons by 10% and nitrogen oxide by 11%. That means that G-Drive enables a car owner to make his/her own, albeit small, contribution to improving environmental conditions. Another “environmental” effect of G-Drive, not in terms of public benefit but in terms of economic gain, is reduced fuel consumption.
How and where is the fuel produced? At oil refineries or depots?
— Base gasoline comes from Gazprom Neft refineries, and the complex additive is added directly to the gasoline in the oil depot by special metering equipment. Product quality is guaranteed by the modern high-tech mixing system that we use and multi-level control at all stages of production.
At whom is this product aimed?
— It’s aimed at all motorists who prefer high-quality fuel which meets the highest requirements. G-Drive protects the fuel systems of all existing models of petrol engines.
How long did it take to develop this new product, and who took part in the process?
— We worked on it for about a year. This includes the entire product development cycle, from brand conception and developing the composition of the fuel in cooperation with leading international manufacturers of additives, to the formation of the launch of G-Drive onto the market, conducting tests and starting to sell the product. Before starting to implement this, we tested G-Drive in an independent specialised European centres. The aforementioned features and advantages of the fuel have been confirmed by the results of testing on a wide range of car brands, including (but not limited to) Volvo, Volkswagen, Fiat, Ford and Toyota.
We have done a great job and are very happy with the result. Experts have rated the quality of the product very highly.
Did the company specialists encounter any difficulties during the development and introduction of the new product?
— We operate in a market where the highest level of competition is to be found, not so much in the segment of branded fuel, but in terms of branded filling stations. Therefore, one of the main tasks was to work with the brand, creating a unique product image that blends well into the face of Gazprom Neft’s filling stations.
Was there any preparatory work done at the filling stations before the importation of the new product?
— Of course, much has been done, from preparing the tanks to making changes in the construction of information displays and branding of dispenser pumps. It was also necessary to train personnel, so that they were qualified to talk about the features of the new fuel, answer customers’ questions and provide assistance if requested.
What criteria did you use when choosing the region for the initial launch? Do you plan to expand product geography? If so, then when, and in what regions?
— We started off in St Petersburg, which is a strategic market for Gazprom Neft for many reasons. But I will say that by the end of this year the new fuel will be available in most regions where Gazprom Neft has filling stations: Kuzbass, Omsk, Novosibirsk, the Urals, Tyumen, Yaroslavl, the Central region and Chelyabinsk.
Did you take competitors’ experience into account in the implementation of branded fuels? If so, then which companies, and what experience?
— Of course, such projects are impossible to implement without benchmarking. We have studied the best practices of both domestic and foreign companies and are trying to apply the best solutions available on the market.
What is Gazprom Neft expecting to result from the implementation of branded fuels?
— The results we have achieved so far allow us to be ambitious when estimating the prospects for G-Drive fuel. We hope that the increased presence of this petrol in key regions will help to strengthen the Gazprom Neft retail brand and increase the number of loyal customers, because high quality fuel and service, along with innovation and modernisation, are the key values of our retail brand.
What results has the company achieved in 2010, and what are the plans for 2011?
— Since the launch of G-Drive fuel in the North-West region in late 2010 we have sold almost 7 million litres of the fuel. We have no plans to rest on our laurels.