Satisfaction with four-stroke outboards up significantly

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – Customer satisfaction with high-technology marine engines increased substantially from 2003 as those technologies gained a wider share of the marine engine market, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2005 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study, released yesterday.

The study finds customer satisfaction is highest with electronic fuel injected (EFI) inboards, followed by EFI four-stroke outboards, direct injected (DI) two-stroke outboards and EFI sterndrives. Overall customer satisfaction is based on six factors: starting ease, quietness at cruise, reliability, fuel economy, shifting smoothness and lack of engine fumes, according to J.D. Power.

Four-stroke engines now outnumber two-strokes in three of four outboard-powered boat segments: coastal fishing, pontoon and runabout. The biggest increase is in coastal fishing, where four-stroke outboard penetration is at 50 percent of the market — up from 31 percent in 2003. Only the bass boat segment has more two-stroke than four-stroke outboards. Ski/wakeboard boat engines continue to deliver very high satisfaction and product quality scores in 2005, contributing to that boat segment’s leading position in the industry.

“New-boat owners are becoming increasingly aware that higher-technology engines deliver a superior overall boating experience,” said Eric Sorensen, director of the marine practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “This in turn is translating into higher overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. Customers have created increasing demand for these quiet, efficient, clean-running engines, while new federal emission standards are pushing manufacturers in the same direction.”

In the area of product quality, engine problems constitute one-third of total reported boat problems — more than any other category — leading to lower customer satisfaction and owner loyalty. Across all technologies, inboard owners report the fewest problems, followed by owners of outboards and sterndrives. Taking technology into account, two-stroke carbureted outboards have the most reported problems.

Inboard engine owners are most likely to say that the engine manufacturer stands behind its product, followed by owners of outboard and sterndrive manufacturers. Bass and ski/wakeboard boat owners are most likely to say that the engine manufacturer stands behind their product, while far fewer runabout and express cruiser owners are likely to say so.

The study also finds that being able to select the engine brand serves as a purchase motivator, especially among bass boat and coastal fishing boat owners.

“It’s clear from data new to the study in 2005 that customers want to be able to choose their engines as well as their boats,” said Sorensen. “We consistently see that customers who are able to select their own engine by brand, size and technology are substantially more satisfied with both the engine and the boat, and they also tend to be more loyal to both the boat and engine manufacturers.”

Among the three major components of the boat ownership experience, service has improved the most in 2005, followed by sales experience and boat and engine components.

Satisfaction winners by segment

Two-stroke outboard segment: Yamaha DI engines rank highest in customer satisfaction among two-stroke outboards, receiving a score of 904 on a 1,000-point scale and especially high ratings from owners for engine reliability and starting ease.

Four-stroke outboard segment: Honda and Suzuki EFI engines rank highest in a tie at 919 among four-stroke outboards. Suzuki excels in starting ease, fuel economy and lack of engine fumes, while Honda owners report very high satisfaction with quietness at cruise and reliability. Yamaha and Johnson, respectively, follow in the four-stroke outboard engine segment rankings.

Inboard segment: Indmar EFI engines rank highest among inboards with a score of 907, receiving high ratings for all key engine factors measured. Pleasurecraft Engine Group (PCM) follows Indmar by just 1 index point, with a score of 906.

Sterndrive segment: Volvo Penta EFI engines rank highest among sterndrives with a score of 843. Volvo Penta receives high ratings from owners for quietness at cruise, fuel economy, lack of engine fumes and shifting smoothness.

The 2005 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study is based on responses from 12,530 owners who registered a new boat between March 2003 and May 2004. Ten marine engine brands, including outboards, sterndrives and gas inboards, are included in the study.

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