Despite Fuel Efficiency Improvements, Customer Satisfaction With Class 5-7 Trucks Remains Flat

According to J.D. Power and Associates, customer satisfaction among fleet and commercial operators of medium-duty (Class 5-7) trucks remained flat from 2011 to 2012, but the reported fuel economy for these vehicles increased 12% year over year. Also, problems per 100 trucks (PP100) improved to 123 PP100 this year from 141 PP100 in 2011.

The findings of the ‘2012 U.S. Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study,’ therefore, suggest an interesting state of affairs for those operating and managing medium-duty truck fleets.

‘Even with advances in fuel economy and quality, the cost to manage truck fleets continues to increase, negatively impacting satisfaction,’ says Brent Gruber, director of the commercial vehicle practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

‘Higher fuel and truck prices have impacted satisfaction, pushing principal maintainers to look at other cost-savings options. However, they have concerns regarding new alternative fuel technology,’ he adds.

About half of the fleets who responded to J.D. Power's inquiries are familiar with the most popular alternative powertrains, but concerns with expected quality/reliability, availability of fuel/fueling stations and engine performance/acceleration are the primary reasons they will not consider purchasing trucks with these technologies.

Among all electric, hybrid, natural gas and propane autogas powertrain options available, the top reasons for purchase consideration are emissions/environmental impact and future cost savings. However, depending on the specific powertrain technology, between only 3% and 6% of respondents say they ‘definitely will’ consider purchasing such a truck.

‘While fleet maintainers realize the potential long-term cost benefits of alternative fuel powertrains, reliability and fueling infrastructure are reasons for concern, resulting in much of the industry waiting to see the technology prove itself before making the investment,’ Gruber says.

‘In order for trucks with alternative powertrains to gain widespread market acceptance, truck 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,’ he adds.

Overall, the study found that Class 5 trucks continued to have the highest quality levels in 2012, averaging 86 PP100. In comparison, Class 6 trucks average 151 PP100, and Class 7 trucks average 141 PP100.

With a score of 820, Hino ranks highest in customer satisfaction within the conventional truck segment for a third consecutive year. Hino performs well across all factors, particularly warranty; cost of operation; cab and body; and ride/handling/braking, according to J.D. Power.

In its first year of inclusion in the study, Dodge RAM ranks second with a score of 806, followed by Freightliner (768).

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