Interest in new trucks lowest in six years: Survey

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — The percentage of heavy duty truck owners who say they "definitely will" purchase or lease a new truck in the next 12 months has reached the lowest level since 2002, according to a survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

The J.D. Power and Associates Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study, which began tracking heavy-duty customer purchase intent in 2002, finds that only 25 percent of Class 8 truck owners indicate that they will definitely purchase or lease a new truck in the next year — down from 41 percent in 2006.

That’s significant because it hints that there will be only a very modest pre-buy next year in advance of new EPA-mandated engines hitting the market in 2010.

Heavy-duty truck sales in 2008 have decreased considerably compared with 2006, when sales were at historically high levels ahead of the 2007 diesel engine emission rules. While 63 percent of owners in 2006 intended to add trucks to increase the size of their fleet inventory, only 54 percent say they plan to do the same in 2008.

Sales spiked in 2006 as owners purchased trucks prior to the implementation of 2007 emission standards, and another pre-buy may occur prior to a new round of emission standards slated for 2010.

"The low rate of purchase intent among truck owners suggests that industry-wide sales may not experience a quick rebound," said Brian Etchells, senior research manager of the commercial vehicles practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "Many factors — in addition to the pre-buy and new emission technology — could be playing a role in the current sales slump.

Truck sales aren’t expected to rise over the next
year, even with new emission rules looming

"With the poor economic climate and rising fuel costs, both owner-operators and fleets are struggling to stay profitable. Thus, it has never been more important for manufacturers to provide trucks that experience little to no downtime, have low maintenance and ownership costs and provide the performance that drivers demand."

The study measures the satisfaction of primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks in two product segments: over-the-road and vocational. In both segments, customer satisfaction is determined by examining four key factors: performance, quality, warranty and cost of ownership. The study focuses on smaller fleets and owner operators with an average fleet size of 53 trucks at a single location.

In 2008, Kenworth ranks highest in heavy-duty truck customer satisfaction in the over-the-road segment for a fourth consecutive year and the vocational truck segment for a second consecutive year. In both segments, Kenworth performs particularly well in performance, quality and cost of ownership.

Western Star closely follows Kenworth in the vocational truck rankings, while Freightliner improves considerably in the over-the-road segment to rank second.

Mack Trucks, meanwhile, ranks highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service, performing particularly well in the service initiation, service delivery and service advisor factors. Kenworth and Sterling, respectively, follow in the dealer service rankings.


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