Three decades of service and a desire to develop new products sees Clayton Parks keeping Rislone ahead of the game

The key to survival in today’s fast changing automotive scene is to learn lessons from the past and constantly develop new products, according to Rislone Vice President, Strategic Development, Clayton Parks.
He says it used to upset him when other companies copied or “knocked off” Rislone products, but now he believes it is better to just let them be and focus on developing even better products.
“A lot of the times (by the time the opposition has copied Rislone products) we are already onto our next generation… we’ve moved on,” he explains.
Australian Automotive Aftermarket Magazine caught up with Clayton at the recent AAAExpo where he was visiting from Rislone’s headquarters in Michigan, USA.
Smits Group, originally from New Zealand, represents Rislone in Australia via Smits Group Pty. It was launched in Australia in 2011, shipping from its warehouse in Brisbane.
Clayton believes there is enormous potential for the growth of the brand – which has historically been at the forefront of oil additives – in Australia and New Zealand, but more about that later.
He has spent the past 30 years working for Rislone, starting as a sales person but eventually moving to product development and strategic growth.
Clayton began his working life at the counter of an auto parts store, but he soon got sick of working weekends, so he took up an opportunity to move to a Ford dealership as a parts manager.
He had got to know the owners of Rislone while working at the auto parts store as he had become involved with their drag racing activities.
So, when a position became available with the Rislone company, he jumped at it and has been there ever since.
Clayton is a true motoring enthusiast with a passion for motorsport and building project cars.
“I had rebuilt my first engine before I could drive, because of my dad, he was always involved with cars,” Clayton explains.
“I like working on off-road vehicles. And up in Michigan, we have big sand dunes, right on Lake Michigan, so I usually always have an off-road project vehicle in the process of being built.”

His last ‘project car’ was a ’57 Ford Ranchero (what Australians would call a ute), which Clayton put on a ’78 Ford F250 4WD chassis and fitted a 428CJ engine.
Having recently sold the Ranchero, he is currently building a 1960 Ford F250 truck, which he is fitting to a 2011 Ford F350 Superduty 4WD chassis with a 521 big block Ford stroker engine.
“I painted it. I put it on a different chassis. It has got bigger tyres on it. I built the engine myself. But I have been traveling quite a bit the last month so I haven’t been able to get it running yet, but I should have it driving this year,” he enthuses.
It was this enthusiasm that saw him train as a paint and body specialist and an electrical engineer at high school.
He believes his enthusiasm for motorsport and his hands-on approach has helped him in his career and in understanding what products the market needed.
Clayton reiterated that Rislone has always been good at developing the right product at the right time.
“Originally motor oil was basically pumped out of the ground, lightly filtered, and put into the crankcase. So the engines didn’t last very long, especially the piston rings, and they would need to be rebuilt,” he says.
“So what Rislone did is it came up with some additives for the engine oil that had detergent packages and some other additives and that greatly extended how long the engines lasted.
“Through the years, Rislone has always kept ahead as engine oil technology advanced. There’s a lot of times the engine oil companies themselves can’t do the latest technology (at the same speed as Rislone), because they’ve got to go through just so many processes due to industry regulations and standards.
“One thing that makes us a little bit different too is we are also an OEM supplier.”

It is this innovative nature that is the reason Clayton believes Rislone will remain strong into the future, even if EVs become the dominant vehicle on the roads of the world.
He points out that Rislone is already producing specific product for many hybrid vehicles, noting that a different type of oil additive is needed in hybrids as the ICE-engine can often be idle for periods of time throughout a journey meaning that the thermal cycle happens much more regularly as the engine often heats up and cools down on multiple occasions during the one trip.
And Rislone is already developing product for EVs also, mostly in the form of special coolant additives.
“They have to cool all these other components,” Clayton says.
“You have the battery packs; there are a few different ways they can cool those. You have multiple pumps; maybe you have multiple motors, one in the front, one in the back, some of them have even more than two motors.
“You have inverters that need to be cooled; then you have inside the cabin some type of heating and cooling. So, there are all kinds of lines and connections in those vehicles, more than there is even in a regular internal combustion engine vehicle, that are going to be opportunities.
“There is always opportunities. It is no different than through history when say disc brakes came out, and people thought, ‘oh man, they always did drums, we’re never going to be able to work on these cars’ or when distributor-less ignition or fuel injection was introduced – anything that changes just brings more opportunities.”
While Rislone is a well-known, 100-year-old brand in the USA, Clayton is keen to make it a household brand and ‘go to’ product in Australia and New Zealand.
He said they chose Australia and New Zealand as a growth market a little over a decade ago because it was similar to the US market; however, Rislone had previously pushed into other markets outside of the USA – including Canada, Latin America and South America.
Clayton says the lessons learned from those markets showed how important it was to look at the specific needs of each region.
“We developed a specific product line; we didn’t just take our US products and push them over,” Clayton said.
“We looked at what needed to be. For example, we have Spanish on the US product labels and we didn’t need that. Of course, everything imperial needed to be converted to metric.
“We also looked at the size of the vehicles here and we actually reduced some of the size of the products to fit this market. We launched 10 to 12 products, and then have grown it since then,” he says.
Clayton says improving distribution is the key to success in any market.
“Initially we have grabbed some of the lower hanging fruit with some of the major retailers, but even then, we still only have a short mix,” he says.
“We have to continue to prove that those products are good, and then show that we’re going to put in these new products and can grow their market share.
“We are truly trying to grow that share, because that is the way that we prove to the retailers that they need more and more of our products in their stores.”
He also sees a massive opportunity for growth in non-traditional automotive retail spaces such as the big hardware chains.
“If you look in the United States, our distribution is second only to probably WD-40. You’ll find our products everywhere. If they have any automotive products there, we have something in there. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hardware store, a convenience store, a gas station, or a grocery store, we’re there,” he said.
When asked for a reason why Rislone has been such a successful company, Clayton says it comes down to four things: leadership, developing a strong team, product quality and customer service.
“It is a family-owned and run organisation, third generation, and they treat their employees like family too. I think that shows in the quality of products,” he says.
“We want to make sure every order we ship out is 100 percent correct. With our customer service you can actually talk to a live person at our company.
“We even work to educate our sales team about the products. They’re not just going out there trying to BS people like some salespeople do. Even myself, I couldn’t be a used car salesman; I would be too honest, and I’d probably never sell anything!”

To learn more about Rislone in Australia, visit