Quality up, but satisfaction declines for medium-duty owners

The latest J.D. Power & Associates survey of medium-duty truck owners shows that while overall quality is increasing, customer satisfaction is declining

The latest J.D. Power & Associates survey of medium-duty truck owners shows that while overall quality is increasing, customer satisfaction is declining.

The U.S. 2011 U.S. Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study, which measures trucks in service between 13 and 18 months, showed that owner-reported problems decreased 26% between 2007 and 2011, on average. Owner satisfaction, though, has dropped 27 index points (on a 1,000-point scale).

“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 and Associates. “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.”

Satisfaction with wheel/tire, braking systems, and cab/body quality have all increased, resulting in fewer problems for the vehicles, J.D. Power said, but engine problems increased 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 measured 2010 model-year Class 5, 6, and 7 commercial trucks. Engine quality, warranty, cost of operation, cab and body, ride/handling/braking, and transmission were all studied. Authorized truck dealer service is also considered, using service facility, quality, service advisor, service initiation, service delivery, and service price.

Class 5 trucks have the highest quality levels in 2011, with an average of 76 PP100, while Class 6 scores average 181 PP100 and Class 7 144 PP100, the company said.

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, J.D. Power said.

Freightliner (762) and Ford (757) follow in the product index rankings. Freightliner experiences the greatest improvement from 2010, increasing by 12 index points primarily due to higher engine and cost of ownership satisfaction.

“Medium-duty trucks are sophisticated vehicles that are often used for more demanding applications,” said Gruber. “Between the complexity of the truck and engine and the rugged use, there is a lot that may go wrong with these trucks. However, manufacturers are continuously striving to improve their overall quality and they’re meeting that objective. Now they must focus on reducing the number of engine-related problems, while simultaneously trying to meet the demands of new fuel efficiency and emissions standards.”

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