Thanks for the post. Makes a lot of sense as well. Per this video the lubricant industry is usually playing catch up with the OEMs except in the racing industry where they're working in tandem with OEMs.
It's my understanding that all of the brands, whether big or small, rely on the additive companies to do the majority of the testing and formula development. The only differentiator is that the very large companies, like Mobil or Castrol, can afford to work with the additive companies to create custom tweaks to the market ready packages specifically for them. It also seems per this video that some of the larger companies like XOM/Shell make their own additives in-house as well. Their volumes enable that level of development, but it is typically done on the additive company side, and not on the oil brand’s side.
Someone recent posted a patent by XOM, and not the additive companies on a new formulation using high AN's. So I guess it works both ways? Per this video the lubricant industry is usually playing catch up with the OEMs except in the racing industry where they're working in tandem with OEMs.
So where to start on this... Yes, the lubricant industry is normally playing catch up to the OEM's in some ways. However, Tribologists and Lubricant engineers are employed by the OEM's as well. So the R&D street works sort of both ways. So base oil producers (XOM, RDS, P66, Motiva, etc.) Will come up with what we'll call a new base oil. (See the thread on MPAO's here.) This new base oil starts as a idea before actually going into production. Will probably have a small scale test built. This will then be used by additive companies and automotive OEM's to test on next generation products, what's possible. Now, as always the OEM's want the sun and the moon. Technical limitations in what is actually possible, hold them back. This could be from scale of manufacturing, to cost, etc.
On a small scale, you can see this with HPL's product for example. Are better products possible? Absolutely. But there are limitations on why everyone doesn't use a product like HPL's - mostly cost. But also just shear product availability.
Now as for additive companies / proprietary additive development / etc.
Infineum is a joint venture between Mobil and Shell. Oronite is of coursed owned by Chevron. Chevron and P66 hae Chevron-Phillips. Lubrizol and Afton are independent. Etc. Infineum being the big one in question... Here's the kicker: Just because Mobil and Shell own Infineum, doesn't meant they use their products.
As for XOM developing it's own products - yes. Because they develop base oils, they have to license these base oils for usage, develop product formulations for these base oils, test these base oils, etc. Chevron, P66, Shell all have to do the same thing, to some extent. Just Mobil is more up front with it and honestly, more the 'leader' so to speak. Also, no one makes 'everything' in house. A lubrizol additive package, be sourced with Afton cold flow additives, Infineum VII, for use in Mobil base oils. (Just a random example.)
For the more 'proprietary' additive packages, we'll say... They're takes on other formulations, of course. So it's more who pays for the testing. P66 paid for the 'liquid tek' additive package testing, to get it approved for Dexos. They did this because they consolidated their GT-1 synthetic line up. Instead of having GT-1 Max with Liquid Titanium and a separate GT-1 Max Dexos 1 Gen 2 product, they worked with an additive company, had their 'proprietary' additive package tested and approved by GM.
Full development like what Mobil might have to do is more expensive... But as I said previously, they're going to start with a 'base' product - they know that ABC formulation is approved for all these specs. They will then take that product, sell it in mass to cover the real R&D costs. In turn, they will tweak it to be 'different' (better, or not is debatable, as we've seen on this forum) - and that will be their proprietary formulation. But all the really expensive testing is already done. They don't have to do hundreds of engine sequence tests, they don't have to do blind fleet testing, fuel testing, etc. on it. Because the foundation is already built.
The expensive testing comes when you're re-doing the foundation of a spec. So PC-11 was a bit jump - CJ4 to CK4. Several oils, major brands, did ground up re-designs from CJ4 to CK4. This involved large amounts of real world fleet testing. Large amounts of test stand engine tear downs. This all costs millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars. It was mostly fronted by 1 additive company. Which is now the base additive used in A LOT of major brand HDEO's. Whom are all tweaked in their own ways, for marketing. But that foundational testing laid the basics down for several major brands and ILMA brands.
If you can imagine a tree. This foundational testing is the roots of the tree. The trunk is the 'commercial' oils that ILMA's make and will probably be major producer's factory fill oils / quick lube oils / sold to distributors as house brand / big volume, low margin stuff. The branches from the truck will be your 'known brands' oil on the shelves, in quart bottles. Formulations may be shared between brands, or be very, very similar. Then the small branches off that will be your 'top tier' oils that we think about and pay a premium for.
Is there a major formulation change between the branch and small branches? Maybe. Might also just be marketing. Depends.
I feel like I'm rambling a bit. Might be the pain killers. Hope this makes sense.