Automakers are increasingly trying to lure customers with new free maintenance programs, following the lead of brands like BMW, VW, Jaguar, Volvo and MINI. Among the bunch, BMW’s Ultimate Service is ranked as one of the most comprehensive free maintenance programs. “BMW Ultimate Service” goes for the first 4 years of ownership, or the first 50,000 miles. The program includes wearable parts such as brake pads and rotors, wiper blades and of course, the costly oil service.
MINI’s free maintenance plan is similar and until recently, the only other automaker to include wearable parts in their coverage. MINI’s coverage is offered for three years.
Last week, Ford’s Lincoln announced their own free scheduled maintenance coverage on all the vehicles purchased this summer. Lincoln will cover all scheduled maintenance for three years or 45,000 miles for all customers who purchase or lease a new Lincoln until September 7. Free scheduled maintenance Lincoln program includes all oil changes, tire rotations, routine inspections as well as the replacement of wear items including wiper blades and brake linings.
“Our commitment is to further grow the Lincoln brand and offer our luxury customers the premium experience they deserve and expect,” said Ken Czubay, Ford Motor Company’s vice president of U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Our free scheduled maintenance offer marks only the first step in our plans to further upgrade the Lincoln experience.”
This past Monday, a response came from GM-owned Cadillac. The company announced it will begin offering free scheduled maintenance on its 2011 models. The program provides maintenance at no charge for four years, 50,000 miles, and it covers oil changes, tire rotations, air filters replacements, and inspections. The free maintenance program launches with the new 2011 CTS coupe, which is set to go on sale in early July.
“Cadillac is adding Premium Care Maintenance as a way to extend customer service beyond the sale,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of Cadillac sales and service. “The program is designed to raise satisfaction for owners by ensuring access to expert service. It should lead to higher loyalty rates for dealers by establishing them as a valued resource for our customers.”
In an interview with USA Today, BMW of North America Communication Manager, Tom Kowaleski emphasizes once again the relationship being built between customers and dealerships. Kowaleski also said that about 97% of new BMW owners take advantage of the freebies. “It’s good for customers. It let’s you know over the term of ownership, you don’t pay for anything except wheels or tires”, said Kowaleski.
Dealerships’ service departments have been the most profitable entities within the business. and getting customers back into the service department, will only increase the trust relationship and possible longer customer retention.
While many companies are starting to see the value of the free auto maintenance programs, there are others that took the opposite road. Even thought Mercedes was one of the first to offer a free maintenance plan, back in 2005, they decided to eliminate their free maintenance and offer their customers the option to choose from a variety of prepaid plans. The decision to remove the free maintenance plan was solely based on cost issues and Mercedes-Benz does not feel that the customers have jumped ship based on this. Their Prepaid Maintenance Plan offers solutions for all the pockets without having the customer think they’re giving up an “arm and a leg” for scheduled maintenance.
Audi gets a little better and while they still don’t offer a full 4 year plan, they do offer the first scheduled maintenance service at 5,000 miles or 12 months, whichever comes first, free of charge. Until 2007, Audi of America offered a 4-year/50,000-mile program, called Audi Advantage, which was established in the late 1980s as a way to restore consumer confidence and jump-start the brand in the United States.
The mother company Volkswagen provides owners of new models with free scheduled maintenance for three years or 36,000 miles, along with regular checkups every 6,000 miles or 90 days.
The recent decisions coming from General Motors and Ford certainly work in customer’s favor, and could weigh into the final purchasing decision.