DETROIT — In summer 1998, Michigan Privatization Report (MPR) published "Detroit DPW on Cruise Control," a story based on published reports about the cost of changing oil in Detroit's police cruisers. It appears as though Detroit officials may have read the work, because shortly after its publication, the city outsourced at least some of its police oil changes to the private firm Urban Management (now called On Site Oil).

Reports had suggested that the Detroit Department of Public Works was spending $1 million annually to change the oil in 500 police cars. MPR editor Joseph G. Lehman estimated then that, if private garages were performing the oil and filter changes, at $30 per car, every one of Detroit's 500 units would need its oil changed about 67 times a year to have the service cost $1 million. In order to need that many oil changes each car would need to drive 200,000 miles annually — an unlikely figure.

Details of the contract are sketchy. Repeated telephone calls to the city police and the Detroit Department of Public Works over a two-week period failed to locate the official who represented Detroit in its contract with On Site Oil. An employee of On Site Oil, however, informed MPR that the firm does indeed change the oil in Detroit police cars. MPR was unable to determine if On Site Oil is the only contractor to do so.

On Site Oil charges $32.95 per vehicle per change. The charge includes every service that other private garages perform for civilians. If all 500 police vehicles had their oil changed 10 times each year at On Site Oil, the bill would come to $164,750, an astounding 507-percent drop in the cost to the city of performing this maintenance operation.