Westlake Village, California – The overall quality of medium-duty trucks has improved considerably during the last five years but customer satisfaction has declined, mostly due to engine problems, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

The study found that while the incidence of owner-reported problems decreased by an average of 26 per cent between 2007 and 2011, owner satisfaction declined by 27 index points among trucks that had been in service 13 to 18 months.

“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 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.”

The study found that manufacturers have made dramatic improvements during the past five years in wheels and tires, braking system, and cab and body quality, but the number of engine problems in trucks that have been in service 13 to 18 months increased by 13 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) between 2007 and 2011.

“Declining engine quality is putting downward pressure on satisfaction,” Gruber said. “Electronic control module calibration and regeneration system problems now impact 46 per cent of medium-duty truck customers who experience an engine-related problem.”

With a score of 807 out of 1,000 points, Hino ranked highest in customer satisfaction within the conventional truck segment for a second consecutive year. Freightliner followed with 762 points, then Ford with 757 in the product index rankings.

“Medium-duty trucks are sophisticated vehicles that are often used for more demanding applications,” Gruber said. “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.”

Connect with Autos.ca