Cat C-15 ranks highest in customer satisfaction

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The Caterpillar C-15 ranks highest in customer satisfaction among vocational heavy-duty truck diesel engines, according to J.D. Power and Associates, in a study that also documents dissatisfaction with 2002-compliant engines across the industry.

The 2005 Heavy-Duty Truck Engine/Transmission study, released Tuesday, Dec. 6, was based on responses from 2,429 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks. It measured customer satisfaction with three factors: engine quality and warranty, engine performance, and engine noise and vibration.

The C-15 performed significantly above the competition in all three categories, J.D. Power reported. This is the fifth year in a row that J.D. Power has ranked a Caterpillar engine highest in the vocational segment. “Caterpillar has consistently raised the performance bar by providing their customers with a high-quality product,” says Brian Etchells, J.D. Power senior manager of commercial vehicle research.

The study examines engines from the 2003 model year, the first affected by tougher emissions standards that mandated new technologies, such as redirecting exhaust gas back into the engine to burn off more pollutants. “It appears the new emissions technology may have affected engine performance and quality, as customer satisfaction with both factors dropped significantly in 2005,” Etchells says.

Average fuel economy ratings for all engines also declined considerably, dropping below 6 miles per gallon for the first time in the study’s history, J.D. Power reported. “This is a common pattern whenever new technologies are introduced in an industry, and the assumption is that the scores for these engines will improve over time,” Etchells says.

Other industrywide indications that the new technology is affecting customer satisfaction adversely include low scores on acceleration when the truck is loaded and a sharp increase in the number of engine-related repairs, J.D. Power reported. Commonly reported problems involve exhaust gas recirculation valves and other components that help reduce emissions, J.D. Power reported.

Caterpillar is currently the only heavy-duty engine manufacturer not using exhaust gas recirculation, but it, too, will employ the technology beginning in 2007.