Customers Remain Cautious About Class 8 Purchases

Despite new emissions regulations to be implemented in 2010, Class 8 customers remain cautious about the prospect of purchasing or leasing new trucks in the next 12 months, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2009 Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study finds that the percentage of Class 8 customers who say they "definitely will" purchase a new Class 8 truck in the next 12 months is down from 25 percent in 2008 to just 16 percent in 2009 -- the lowest purchase intention level since 2002. In comparison, 41 percent of those surveyed in 2006 said they "definitely will" purchase a truck in the next 12 months-the year pull-ahead sales pushed Class 8 volumes to record levels. Sales, however, plummeted when emission regulations took effect in 2007 and continue to be slow in 2009.

"Freight tonnage continues to decline, and fleets are increasing the length of time they keep their trucks operating-both of which lower demand for new trucks," said Brian Etchells, senior research manager of the commercial vehicle practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "While impending new emissions standards often create pull-ahead sales, a 2009 pre-buy seems unlikely, even amid improving diesel prices and some signs that the economic recession is slowing."

Kenworth Truck Company ranks highest in heavy-duty truck customer satisfaction in the over-the-road segment for a fifth consecutive year and also ranks highest in the pickup and delivery segment. In both segments, Kenworth performs particularly well in the performance, quality and cost of ownership factors. Peterbilt and Freightliner, respectively, follow Kenworth in the pickup and delivery truck segment rankings.

In the vocational truck segment, Freightliner ranks highest, showing marked improvement from 2008 in all four factors driving satisfaction: performance; quality; warranty; and cost of ownership. Freightliner performs particularly well in performance, warranty, and cost of ownership. Kenworth and Western Star, respectively, follow Freightliner in the vocational truck rankings.

Kenworth ranks highest in Class 8 customer satisfaction with dealer service, performing particularly well in service initiation, service delivery and service advisor. Kenworth improves considerably from 2008 in all six factors measured: dealer facility; service quality; service delivery; service initiation; service advisor; and price.

"While Kenworth's dealerships have improved in technical aspects of service, such as diagnosing problems correctly, they have also improved in customer relations elements, such as being courteous and friendly," said Etchells. "How dealer service personnel treat customers has just as big of an impact on service satisfaction as how well mechanics fix trucks. Focusing on better customer relations is a cost-effective way to increase service satisfaction, particularly when compared with the cost of improving technical aspects, which could include implementing technical training for mechanics, buying new repair equipment or revamping the parts supply system."

The 2009 Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 2,425 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks. The study was fielded in April and May 2009.

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