Medium-Duty Truck Satisfaction is Flat despite Better Quality and Fuel Economy

Brent Gruber

Advances in fuel economy and quality of medium-duty trucks were unable to offset increases in the cost of managing truck fleets, which negatively impacted overall satisfaction, according to results in our 2012 U.S. Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study, which is based on responses from principal maintainers of model-year 2011 class 5-7 conventional cab medium-duty trucks.

This year, customer satisfaction with medium-duty trucks* remains flat at 757 (on a 1,000-point scale), the same as in 2011, despite reported fuel economy improvements (up 12% from last year) and a step-up in quality with the number of problems per 100 trucks (PP100) declining an average of 18 PP100 from 141 PP100 in 2011 to 123 PP100 this year. Overall, Class 5 trucks continue to have the highest quality levels, averaging just 86 PP100.

Higher fuel and truck prices negatively impacted satisfaction this year, pushing principal maintainers to look at other cost savings options. However, our study results indicate that these fleet maintainers have concerns about new alternative fuel technology.

Alternative Fuel Powertrains are Slow to be Adopted

Nearly one-half of fleet maintainers are familiar with the most popular alternative powertrains, but their concerns with expected quality/reliability, availability of fuel/fueling stations, and engine performance/acceleration are primary reasons they will not consider purchasing trucks with these technologies.

Among all electric, hybrid, natural gas and propane autogas powertrain options available, the major reasons for purchase consideration  are emissions/environmental impact and future cost savings. Yet, only 3-6% of fleet maintainers say they “definitely will” consider purchasing such a truck (depending on the particular technology).

While fleet maintainers realize the potential long-term cost benefits of alternative fuel powertrains, they remain concerned about reliability and fueling infrastructure. Most of the industry is waiting to see the technology prove itself before making an investment.

In order for trucks with alternative powertrains to gain widespread market acceptance, manufacturers and energy providers will need to assure customers that they will not be sacrificing durability, payload capacity, or ease of fueling with these new technologies. Brent Gruber, director of the commercial vehicle practice at J.D. Power and Associates

*Six factors are used to determine overall product satisfaction: engine; warranty; cost of operation; cab and body; ride/handling/braking; and transmission. The study also measures satisfaction with services at authorized truck dealerships. Six factors that make up the service index are: service facility; service quality; service advisor; service initiation; service delivery; and service price.

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