Truck buyers are undecided about which brand they plan to purchase to replace discontinued brands in the medium-duty market such as Chevrolet, GMC Trucks and Sterling
, according to a study released by J.D. Power and Associates. Those manufacturers that are still in business stand to reap the benefits.

About 47 percent of customers who have purchased or leased trucks from one of the General Motors brands are undecided about what brand to turn to next. In addition, among former Sterling customers, 36 percent do not know what brand to switch to, while 46 percent of owners of trucks with Caterpillar engines have not made up their minds.

Caterpillar has announced that it will stop producing engines for the U.S. commercial vehicle market starting in 2010, when new emission regulations take effect.

"While the down economy and low sales levels in the commercial-vehicle market present considerable challenges to OEMs and their suppliers, this is also a time of opportunity," said Brian Etchells, senior research manager in the commercial vehicle group at J.D. Power and Associates. "Companies that position themselves well by building high-quality trucks and keeping their dealer body healthy stand to increase their market share as brands choose to or are forced to exit the marketplace."

According to the study, 28 percent of Sterling customers said they would buy or lease a Freightliner truck, while 34 percent of Caterpillar customers indicated they would go for a Cummins engine. Among owners of GMC Trucks and Chevrolet medium-duty trucks, more than one-fifth said they would purchase or lease a Ford medium-duty truck.

"We expect that many of Sterling's customers may switch to Freightliner trucks, since many Sterling dealers also sell Freightliners," said Etchells. "However, with truck OEMs introducing their own proprietary engines or expanding their model lineup, there remains some uncertainty about which engines Caterpillar customers will migrate to."

The 2009 Medium-Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 1,613 primary maintainers of two-year-old Class 5, 6 and 7 conventional cab medium-duty trucks.
Peterbilt ranked the highest in terms of customer satisfaction, which particularly good marks in performance and cost of ownership factors.

"Peterbilt's strengths continue to be not only in ride and cab design, but also reliability and return on investment," said Etchells.

Chevrolet ranked highest in customer satisfaction with dealer service for a fourth consecutive year, performing particularly well in the service quality, service initiation and service advisor factors.

More info: