‘Waiting to See Alt Fuel Powertrain Technology Prove Itself’
“Alternative fuel powertrains are not ready to be widely adopted,” J.D. Power said in summing up its 2012 U.S. Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study on Thursday.
Approximately half of fleet maintenance professionals are familiar with the most popular alternative powertrains, Power says, but continue to be concerned about quality and reliability, availability of fuel and fueling stations, and engine performance and acceleration – to the extent that “they will not consider purchasing trucks with these technologies.”
Among all electric, hybrid, natural gas and propane autogas powertrain options available, the top reasons for purchase consideration are emissions and environmental impact and future cost savings, Power said. “However, depending on the specific powertrain technology, between only three and 6% of fleet maintainers say they ‘definitely will’ consider purchasing such a truck.”
“While fleet maintainers realize the potential long-term cost benefits of alternative fuel powertrains, reliability and fueling infrastructure are reasons for concern, resulting in much of the industry waiting to see the technology prove itself before making the investment,” J.D. Power commercial vehicle practice director Brent Gruber said in a release.
More Assurance Needed
“In order for trucks with alternative powertrains to gain widespread market acceptance, truck manufacturers and energy providers will need to assure customers that they will not be sacrificing durability, payload capacity or ease of fueling with these new technologies.”
Alt fuels aside, medium duty truck customers are less than fully happy.
“Even with advances in fuel economy and quality, the cost to manage truck fleets continues to increase, negatively impacting satisfaction,” Gruber said. “Higher fuel and truck prices have impacted satisfaction, pushing principal maintainers to look at other cost savings options. However, they have concerns regarding new alternative fuel technology.”
Power’s 2012 study measures customer perceptions of 2011 model-year Class 5, 6 and 7 commercial trucks. Six factors are used to determine overall satisfaction: engine; warranty; cost of operation; cab and body; ride and handling and braking; and transmission. The study also measures satisfaction with services received from an authorized truck dealer. The current Medium-Duty Truck survey is J.D. Power’s 20th.
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Source: J.D. Power & Associates, Fleets & Fuels photography