In this gloomy sales environment, the return of Volvo’s scheduled free maintenance is putting the brand on more shopping lists, dealers say.
Volvo reinstated 3 years/36,000 miles free maintenance for 2009 models after a major push from dealers, who said consumers needed more confidence in the brand. Volkswagen began a similar program for 2009 models to allay concerns about quality and repair costs.
Volvo had eliminated the program for 2006 models, part of a trend among prestige brands. Mercedes-Benz killed free maintenance for 2005 models, and Audi axed its program for 2007 models. BMW kept its program.
Although it took most of the year to convince Volvo of the program’s merits, David Karp, president of Karp Volvo in Rockville, N.Y., says the advantages are obvious: “I expect more customers. They will bring the car in more often, and it will be better maintained — which means less problems and improved value.”
Mark Fields, who owns four Volvo stores in Illinois and Wisconsin, also is a BMW dealer. He says a big part of BMW’s success in the United States has been free maintenance.
“The Volvo buyer is a practical buyer who studies the buying decisions and does a lot of research,” Fields says. “The cost of owning the vehicle is now less.”
Fields says he’s still trying to sell 2008 models, which makes it hard to gauge how many customers are coming in because of the free maintenance.
“At my four stores, we’ve seen a little pickup in business even with the snow,” he says. “The new program will take some time and communication.”
Philip Reed, consumer editor for Edmunds, says free maintenance is more important for a foreign brand than a domestic. “It gets a number of buyers that may be on the fence,” he says.
“People are very afraid of repair costs, particularly in a foreign brand. People may perceive that it may be more expensive than for a Ford or a Chevy.”
According to Edmunds, Audi, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Scion don’t charge for the first scheduled maintenance. Only BMW, Land Rover, Mini, Saab and Volvo extend that service. Most programs are for 3 years/36,000 miles. BMW has the longest terms with 4 years/50,000 miles.