Engine customer satisfaction declines

MIAMI – Mercury, PCM, Yamaha and Volvo Penta each rank highest among marine engine manufacturers, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study released yesterday at the Miami International Boat Show.

Now in its seventh year, the study measures overall customer satisfaction with four marine engine types: EFI inboard; four-stroke EFI outboard; two-stroke DI outboard; and EFI sterndrive. Overall customer satisfaction index scores are based on performance across seven factors: starting ease, quietness at cruise, reliability, fuel economy, shifting smoothness, lack of exhaust fumes and ability of boat to accelerate rapidly.

The study finds that marine engine customer satisfaction has declined slightly across all four segments examined in the 2008 study. However, engine quality has remained stable or improved slightly in three segments.

“We will certainly be keeping an eye on how the new emission law being implemented in California this July impacts marine engine customer satisfaction and quality,” said Todd Markusic, senior director of the powersports practice at J.D. Power and Associates. “In order to meet these requirements, manufacturers will have to implement new technologies and enhance some of their products. We have seen industries—such as the commercial truck market—struggle to meet new emission standards when their engines were redesigned. It will be interesting to see how marine engine manufacturers respond to this challenge.”

Outboard DI two-stroke segment
Mercury leads in the outboard DI two-stroke segment for a third consecutive year, with slight improvements in engine quality since the 2007 study. Evinrude closely follows Mercury in the segment.

Transmission issues and stalling are the most frequently reported problems within the outboard DI two-stroke segment. However, two owner-reported problems, major engine failure and engine runs rough, have the most negative impact on overall satisfaction. Only 4 percent of owners experience either of these two problems.

Outboard EFI four-stroke segment
Yamaha ranks highest in the outboard EFI four-stroke segment, performing particularly well in engine reliability. Honda and Suzuki follow Yamaha closely.

Among all outboard technologies, four-stroke EFI engines have a particularly low number of reported problems (56 PP100). Among those owners who experience problems, those involving engine transmission are the most frequently reported.

Sterndrive EFI segment
Volvo Penta ranks highest in the sterndrive EFI segment, performing particularly well in the engine’s ability to accelerate rapidly, fuel economy and lack of exhaust fumes. MerCruiser closely follows Volvo Penta, receiving particularly high ratings from owners for engine reliability.

More than 57 percent of EFI owners indicate that their new engine is problem-free, while only 9 percent of owners report having three problems or more. The two most frequently reported problems by EFI sterndrive owners are engine transmission feels/sounds rough when shifting and issues with the engine tilt/trim.

Inboard EFI segment
For a third consecutive year, Pleasurecraft Engine Group (PCM) ranks highest in the inboard EFI four-stroke engine segment, performing particularly well in engine reliability. Marine Power follows PCM in the segment.

While inboard EFI engines have the highest quality (49 PP100) and satisfaction ratings of all four engine segments, fuel economy continues to be a major weakness for the engine type.

The 2008 Marine Engine Competitive Information Study is based on responses from 9,718 owners who registered a new boat between June 2006 and May 2007. Eleven brands of outboard, sterndrive and gas inboard marine engines are included in the study.

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