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    LUKOIL Banners Flying High in Central Jersey

    Deals have been done for some time, but conversions are finally taking place.

    FORT LEE, N.J. -- LUKOIL has put the finishing touches on 27 of its stations in central New Jersey by taking down Mobil's winged horse or Getty's logo, and replacing it with the company's big red drop.

    Nine stations per week are being converted to the LUKOIL banner, at an average cost of $50,000 per station, according to LUKOIL spokesman Joseph Shwirtz. The deal was complete in May of 2004, when LUKOIL purchased 800 Mobil stations throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Shwirtz told the Courier News.

    At stations, canopies and pumps have been changed to the red LUKOIL brand. The Mobil signage came down, rendering the proprietary credit card useless. But consumers do not have to fear, because LUKOIL credit card applications are on hand at stations.

    LUKOIL operates more than 2,000 stations on the East Coast and sells more than 2 billion gallons of gas a year. LUKOIL began rebranding its Getty stations in 2003 and when it purchased the Mobil stations, it was decided to convert the Mobil stations before finishing up with its 1,300 Getty stations it operates, according to Shwirtz.

    With the rebranding efforts, business has been affected for some newly branded LUKOIL stations. Somerville station owner Jimmy Ulfat said that gas sales have been slow, which is what he expected, until people get accustomed to the change.

    But Ulfat remains optimistic about the change. "They're trying to become larger in America. They're going to give me cheaper gas, and I'm going to sell cheaper gas," he told the Courier News. Already Ulfat has a 20 cent advantage on diesel fuel at his station.

    Other owners are not so pleased with the change. Three months ago, a Watchung station converted to LUKOIL and employee Edgar Olmo said that business has slowed down. "People don't know the name. A lot of people are scared to try new gas once they are used to something else," he told the newspaper.

    But Shwirtz remains confident about the progress. "They've done a lot to revamp and renew those sites. People are looking for convenience and price," he said.

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