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Medium-duty truck quality improves, but customer satisfaction drops: survey

While the quality of medium-duty trucks has improved considerably during the past five years, overall customer satisfaction has declined during the same period, according to the J D Power and Associates 2011 US Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study released recently.

The study finds that incidence of owner-reported problems decreased 26% between 2007 and 2011, on average—which is an indication of higher quality—yet during the same time frame owner satisfaction declined by 27 index points (on a 1,000-point scale) among trucks that have been in service 13 to 18 months.

“On the surface, it seems contradictory that owner satisfaction would decline at the same time that owners reported fewer problems,” said Brent Gruber, senior manager of the commercial vehicle practice at J D Power. “Yet when we dig deeper, we find that it’s not the number of problems, but the nature of the problems that are causing owners to be less satisfied with their trucks.”

The study finds that manufacturers have made dramatic improvements during the past five years in wheel/tire, braking system, and cab/body quality, resulting in a decline in the total number of problems. However, the number of engine problems in trucks that have been in service 13 to 18 months increased by 13 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) between 2007 and 2011.

“Declining engine quality is putting downward pressure on satisfaction,” said Gruber. “Electronic control module calibration and regeneration system problems now impact 46% of medium-duty truck customers who experience an engine-related problem.”

The study, now in its 19th year, measures customer perceptions of 2010 model-year Class 5, 6, and 7 commercial trucks. Within the product index, six factors are used to determine overall satisfaction: engine; warranty; cost of operation; cab and body; ride/handling/braking; and transmission. The study also measures satisfaction with services received from an authorized truck dealer. Six factors comprise the service index: service facility; service quality; service advisor; service initiation; service delivery; and service price.

The study also finds that Class 5 trucks have the highest quality levels in 2011, averaging 76 PP100. Class 6 trucks average 181 PP100, and Class 7 trucks average 144 PP100.

While medium-duty trucks are not typically considered to be environmentally friendly vehicles, the study finds many truck owners are thinking “green.” Although implementation of green technology is not widespread in the commercial trucking industry, the study finds 16% of owners say they are “certain” or “practically certain” they would buy a truck from a green-rated manufacturer rather than a manufacturer without a green rating.

With a score of 807, Hino ranks highest in customer satisfaction within the conventional truck segment for a second consecutive year. Hino performs well across all factors driving satisfaction, particularly in engine satisfaction and overall quality. Freightliner (762) and Ford (757) follow in the product index rankings. Freightliner experienced the greatest improvement from 2010, increasing by 12 index points primarily due to higher engine and cost of ownership satisfaction.

The 2011 study is based on responses from 1,037 primary maintainers of 2010 model-year Class 5, 6, and 7 conventional cab medium-duty trucks. The study was fielded between June and July 2011.

TAGS: Vehicles
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