After several years of slow sales of Class 8 heavy-duty trucks, customer intention to purchase a new vehicle continues to increase, according to the JD Power and Associates 2003 Heavy-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study. The study is based on responses from 2,675 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 8 heavy-duty trucks.

Thirty-one percent of respondents indicate they will definitely purchase a Class 8 truck in the next 12 months — up from 26% in 2002. However, with the close focus on cost, the study also finds that just 39% say they would repurchase the same make again, down from 44% in 2002.

The study examined several subjects, including dealer service and customer satisfaction for over-the-road and vocational truck segments. Now in its eighth year, the study focuses on smaller fleets and owner/operators, with an average fleet size at a single location of 64 trucks.

This study measures satisfaction with the service received from an authorized truck dealer's service department. At the top in that category were Peterbilt and Mack Trucks. Western Star and Sterling also perform above the average.

Factors that impact satisfaction with a dealer visit are: dealer attitude, dealer facility, service quality, service delivery, service initiation, service advisor, and price.

Customer satisfaction for the segments includes six factors: quality, exterior, engine, ride/handling/braking, transmission, and interior. In the over-the-road segment, satisfaction with the vehicle's sleeper is also measured.

Peterbilt ranks highest in customer satisfaction among over-the-road trucks, performing well in the quality, exterior, engine, ride/handling/braking, and transmission factors. The top ranking is driven by the performance of the Peterbilt 379, which receives strong scores and shows year-to-year improvement in satisfaction with the engine and transmission factors. Kenworth also performs above the segment average.

Peterbilt also ranks highest in the vocational segment, receiving strong scores from its maintainers on all six factors. The company's strength in the segment is the quality factor, with fewer customers reporting problems in 2003 compared with 2002. Western Star follows Peterbilt in the rankings, trailing by three index points. Kenworth and Sterling also perform above the segment average.