Last month, Volkswagen's Philippine distributor, Automobile Central Enterprise, revealed that it wouldn't be selling gasoline-powered models after the German carmaker's engineers had tested our fuels and discovered that they contain manganese which "can be damaging to some engine components." Volkswagen added that manganese can also cause ailments that target the nervous system.
At today's Usapan AAP forum hosted by Automobile Association Philippines, Afton Chemical worldwide marketing director John Walsh clarified that numerous studies have shown that manganese--or MMT, short for methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl--in the quantity used by vehicles is not harmful either to the cars or to people. Afton Chemical is a major manufacturer of petroleum additives used throughout the globe.
"Numerous tests conducted by the United States' Environment Protection Agency and Health Canada have proven that MMT is not harmful to vehicles and humans," said Walsh. "As a matter of fact, we ingest manganese on a daily basis. It's in the food we eat and it's even in the vitamins we take."
We checked the EPA website and it, in fact, states that MMT, "added at 1/32 grams per gallon of fuel, will not cause or contribute to regulated emissions failures of vehicles." From the health aspect, the EPA explained that exposure to MMT in unleaded gasoline "is not much higher or much lower than the Reference Concentration (the safe level for a lifetime exposure with an order of magnitude uncertainty)."
To illustrate just how much MMT is added to local fuels, Walsh said a five-liter container of gasoline would only yield two drops of the additive.
Walsh offered that perhaps one reason why Volkswagen is refusing to sell its gasoline-powered vehicle in the country is because of the tests it needs to conduct to make sure that its vehicles can properly operate in the market.
"With so many fuels in the market, it would be expensive for a manufacturer like Volkswagen, for example, to test all the fuels for its vehicles," Walsh explained. "If a manufacturer had its way, it would only make one engine for all of its products. Oil companies, on the other hand, have to make different kinds of fuels for different vehicles, and that's where additives, or octane boosters like MMT, come in."
Afton Chemical senior marketing manager Jairus Foo confided that in other markets where MMT is used by oil companies, Volkswagen vehicles are also sold locally.
"That's why we don't understand why Volkswagen in the Philippines made that statement about manganese," said Foo.
Walsh shared that his company would like to meet with ACE to clarify any issue the distributor has with the additive.
What about the note that some car manufacturers place in their owner's manuals, citing that gasolines with MMT can reduce the life of a spark plug and affect the performance of emission control systems?
Afton Chemical's stand is that since the additive is approved by the EPA, consumers have the right "to expect their vehicles to meet federal performance standards when using any approved, commercially available gasoline, and to expect automakers to honor their warranties, without restriction, regardless of the brand of gasoline purchased for use in their vehicles."