I dislike surveys. Always have, even prior to the advent of oxymoronic big data, but the
impersonal and easy-access online world have made surveys annoyingly ubiquitous.
Asking me to “Tell us about your new gadget” the same day I order it, well before it goes
to the wrong house because Amazon or FedEx Ground can’t distinguish “3” from “1” is
pointless: By the time I get the gadget and then have time to use it, your survey email will be so far down the inbox full of surveys I’ll never answer it. If your product works and
shows up as expected I’ll give it three of five stars, an average score for an average event.
If your airline or cruise line really wants to know how they were in “assisting me”—not
flying or cruising–you’d stop sending the surveys after a dozen requests to do so and will
continue getting low scores.
And automotive surveys based on customers are often worse, in large part because many customers are not qualified to respond to the survey. If the car’s seat heaters generate insufficient heat for you (from new) that is not a quality issue, it’s buying the wrong car. If you can’t operate the parking assist function and didn’t even consult the owner’s manual it is not a quality issue. If the manufacturer chose to put the clock in the driver display and it can’t be read from the left rear seat, that is not a quality
issue. And if you haven’t test-driven five vehicles from the segment you’re shopping, can
you legitimately say it’s the best vehicle in its class?
I recently read a story in an established, respected magazine that surveyed owners
about their vehicles and how happy they were with them. The more than 150 models
were categorized, scored overall (would you buy another), and given rankings (think
along the lines of 1 to 5 stars based on the volume of “very satisfied” responses) in five
parameters including “audio” which dealt with the ease of using controls, and “comfort”
which applied to ride, noise and seats. The total survey vehicle pool is lower than the
number of F-150s OR Ram 1500s OR Silverado 1500s sold last year, and every pickup
sold in the US is included, except the Silverado/Sierra half-tons: Their absence is neither
mentioned nor explained so I’ll wager insufficient data. Does that say anything about
those trucks, or the survey?
The Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon and GM 2500 and 3500-series HD
pickups, essentially pairs of twins, scored the same across the board as you’d expect. But
there were things that simply don’t make sense.
Although I’ve probably not driven more than 3,000 pickups I have never driven a
one-ton that rides better than a same-brand ¾-ton yet these customers scored the GM
3500s and the F-350 more comfortable than the 2500s and F-250. I’ve not been able to
find any useful difference in seats and noise between the ¾-ton and 1-ton version of any
manufacturer’s trucks. The Ram 3500 did score a notch lower than the 2500, my
anticipated result since the 2500 uses unique-to-the-class coil springs or air bags in the
rear. I can only surmise that the people buying the one-tons actually use them and know
they ride better than older ones, the one-tons are predominantly 4WD and the 3/4-tons
2WD, wheelbase and road surfaces account for the difference, or that ¾-ton buyers never
carry any significant weight and think yes, it’s bouncier than my half-ton. I challenge anyone to tell me any manufacturer’s one-ton has superior seats, isolation or smoothness than its same trim-cab-wheelbase ¾-ton.
I spent hours scouring control layouts and options and can find no discernible
difference between an F-250 and F-350 or the Ram 2500 and 3500. Yes, controls will
vary by option, cab and package but in the same trim and optioned identically the only
difference I can find is that more 2019 Ram 2500s offer a floor-shift transfer-case than
the 3500. However, that didn’t stop customers from rating F-350 audio/controls higher
than F-250, and the Ram 2500 rating higher than the 3500.
When I attempted to convert the parameters to a simple star system, the Ram
2500 and 3500 both scored 14 points, but the 3500 has a lower would-buy-another score.
An F-350 scores more points than the F-250 but the latter has the higher score. I’m left
wondering why some of these people bought a pickup in the first place.
At least these customers know about pickup prices, as only six of the seventeen
were considered an average value and only one, the Nissan Titan, a five-star value, while
the remaining ten were below par. Generally speaking this survey suggests the vehicles
Americans are buying and the manufacturers profit most from—pickups and
SUV/crossovers—are sub-average value while cars, excepting the compact luxury class,
are average or better.
That part the customers got right.