So, what *is* the total number of retail gasoline outlets in the USA?
(Fans will note this is a long-standing business brain teaser for Ernie and RK)
We've tried estimating based on daily usage, number of miles of interstate,
vehicle population, household sizes, etc, and keep hitting a range of 100-250k
Which seems too high. Benchmarks: 15-6k McDonalds, 12k Pizza Huts, 40k Post Offices
Mobil Aims to Turn Gas Pumps
Into Automatic-Payment Sites
By PETER FRITSCH
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Mobil Corp. hopes to make life in the fast lane a little bit faster.
The oil company will introduce Wednesday a miniature
electronic-payment device that busy motorists can simply wave at
a gasoline pump to fill 'er up.
The tiny electronic tag -- called a Speedpass -- clips onto a
driver's key ring. Mobil is betting the technology will catch on with
drivers tired of fumbling for cash or waiting for a pump to authorize a
Whether drivers are in such a hurry that they will be interested is
an open question. "My key chain already looks like a janitor's,"
says Carol Coale, a Houston securities analyst.
Mobil, which tested the Speedpass over the past six months with
10,000 consumers in St. Louis, says the added convenience can
save the motorist valuable time.
Mobil's technology, developed in partnership with Texas
Instruments Inc. and Dresser Industries Inc., is similar to that used
by drivers at bridge and highway toll booths. Once a driver waves
the tag at the pump, the pump instantly contacts Mobil's credit
department and charges a credit card preselected by the customer.
The marketing effort challenges the conventional wisdom of
gasoline retailing. Most drivers say location is more important
when the gasoline gauge reads "empty" than brand name or price.
Mobil's thinking is that the gee-whiz factor of owning the
Speedpass, combined with the convenience, will persuade people to
go an extra mile to buy from one of Mobil's 7,700 branded stations.
Speedpass is also an attempt to help Mobil build on its position as
the nation's top gasoline seller. With a 9.9% share of the market,
Mobil in 1995 overtook Shell Oil Co. as the leading gasoline seller,
as measured in gallons sold. (Figures for 1996 aren't available.)
Mobil, which was among the first oil companies to use
pay-at-the-pump technology, will introduce Speedpass in key
markets by May 1.