Low-emissions engines cause customer satisfaction to decline, study says

| 10/5/2006

Customers are experiencing more problems with their trucks’ engines as manufacturers strive meet new emissions standards, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

According to the “2006 Heavy-Duty Truck Engine/Transmission Study,” which was released Thursday, Oct. 5, the average number of reported engine problems in 2004 model-year trucks has increased to 74 engine problems per 100 vehicles – up from 46 problems on 2003 model-year trucks.

Specifically, the study connects the increase in owner dissatisfaction with the fact that 2004 was the first year in which more strenuous federal emissions standards forced engine manufacturers to employ new technologies, such as redirecting exhaust gas back into the engine to burn off more pollutants.

“In the 2005 study, there was a greater mix of manufacturers using old- and new-technology engines, so we’re just now starting to see the overall impact of the emission regulations,” said Brian Etchells, senior research manager in the commercial vehicle group at J.D. Power.

However, Etchells pointed out that satisfaction would probably improve once the new engine technologies are refined in coming model years.

“Whenever a new technology is employed, it takes a while to work the bugs out. As time goes on and engines are better equipped and designed to follow the emission standards, the number of problems should gradually decline,” he said.

The study, now in its 10th year, measures customer satisfaction with engines in two-year-old Class 8 trucks by examining four vital engine factors. They are, in order of importance:

  • Engine quality (30 percent);
  • Engine performance (26 percent);
  • Engine cost of ownership (22 percent); and
  • Engine warranty (22 percent).

Of the four drivers of engine satisfaction, customers are least satisfied with the cost of ownership, particularly in the areas of routine engine maintenance costs and fuel efficiency.

The study is based on the responses of 2,529 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 trucks.