J.D. Power and Associates reports on marine engine customer satisfaction

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — PCM, Honda, Mercury and MerCruiser rank highest in customer satisfaction in four engine segments in the J.D. Power and Associates 2006 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study released yesterday.

With improvements in both product satisfaction and quality, Mercury Marine ranks highest in two of four engine segments. Mercury ranks highest in the direct-injected two-stroke outboard segment and Mercury MerCruiser ranks highest in the electronic fuel-injected sterndrive segment.

Honda ranks highest in the electronic fuel-injected four-stroke outboard segment for a second consecutive year, while Pleasurecraft Engine Group ranks highest in the EFI inboard engine segment.

“Mercury has worked hard to focus on improving its product quality and customer service, and it shows,” said Eric Sorensen, director of the marine practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “Mercury’s success this year in these two engine segments shows that positive change happens when companies are serious about both listening and decisively responding to their customers.”

Overall customer satisfaction with marine engines is determined based on performance in six factors: starting ease, quietness at cruise, reliability, fuel economy, shifting smoothness and lack of engine fumes.

EFI Inboards
PCM engines make year-over-year improvements in both quality and customer satisfaction to rank highest among EFI inboards with an index score of 924 on a 1,000-point scale, which is the highest score in the study. PCM scores well in each of the six engine factors. PCM owners report experiencing an average of 25.0 problems per 100 (PP100) engines compared to the EFI inboard segment average of 51.6 PP100.

Indmar follows PCM in the segment rankings.

Four-stroke EFI Outboards
Honda ranks highest for a second consecutive year among EFI four-stroke outboards with an index score of 913. Honda owners report very high satisfaction with the quietness of the engine at cruising speed and engine reliability. Honda records 38.4 PP100 compared to the segment average of 64.4.

Yamaha follows Honda in the EFI four-stroke outboard engine segment rankings.

Two-stroke DI Outboards
Mercury’s DI engines rank highest in customer satisfaction among two-stroke outboards, receiving an index score of 893. Mercury performs particularly well in the segment in both quality and customer satisfaction, especially with their 225 hp or more models.

Yamaha follows Mercury in the DI two-stroke segment with very comparable quality and just slightly lower satisfaction ratings.

EFI Sterndrive segment
MerCruiser EFI engines rank highest among sterndrives with a score of 847. MerCruiser, which had reported improvements in both its transmissions and lower units, received high ratings from owners for both quality and customer satisfaction.

Summary
Overall, boat owners report fewer engine-related problems compared to the 2005 study. The study finds a dramatic decrease in problems among EFI sterndrive engines, dropping from an average of 97.7 PP100 in 2005 to 85.1 in 2006. EFI four-stroke outboards record 5.3 fewer problems per 100 engines from 2005, but outboard engines as a whole improved in quality.

The study also finds customer satisfaction remains highest with EFI inboards, followed closely by EFI four-stroke outboards and DI two-stroke outboards. Customer satisfaction remains lowest for EFI sterndrives, which primarily power runabouts and express cruisers.

“The EFI four-stroke segment is still the benchmark of the outboard industry in terms of quality and satisfaction,” Sorensen said. “From top to bottom, there are some outstanding engines being produced in this segment. However, the brands in the DI two-stroke segment have made some substantial improvements in 2005 and they are clearly producing some of the best engines in the industry. We also see a change in that carbureted four-strokes no longer outperform EFI two-stroke outboards as a result of EFI two-strokes improving and carbureted four-stroke engines declining. The gap between the two four-stroke technologies is now the widest we have seen.”

Although the two-stroke DI and four-stroke EFI engines both offer high performance, they each serve needs in the boating industry.

“The EFI four-stroke outboards are rated very high for their quietness, low emissions and reliability, making them a good choice for owners who put a premium on those qualities,” Sorensen said. “Owners of DI two-stroke outboards, including many bass boat owners, value those attributes but are also placing a lot of importance on strong acceleration and top speed, which is what the DIs deliver.”

While owners of boats in all three engine classes report fewer problems compared to 2005, only outboard engines experience an improvement in customer satisfaction. Inboards and sterndrives have declined slightly in satisfaction.

“In a number of ways, manufacturers have to dig deeper into their engineering toolboxes to find ways to make gains in customer satisfaction,” Sorensen said. “The industry has peaked, at least temporarily, and it will take renewed efforts to again move the competitive bar higher.”

The 2006 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study is based on responses from 12,255 owners who registered a new boat between June 2004 and May 2005. Eleven brands of outboard, sterndrive and gas inboard marine engines were included in the study.

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