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Luxury automakers offering ‘free’ maintenance to entice customers

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

This week Cadillac became the latest luxury automaker to announce plans to offer free scheduled maintenance on 2011 models for the first four years or 50,000 miles of ownership. This idea isn't new; Audi and Mercedes Benz have offered free maintenance on their cars in past years and BMW, Volvo and Jaguar are currently offering similar plans.

The Cadillac CTS-V

The Cadillac CTS-V. Photo courtesy: General Motors

The program stands to save Cadillac owners a lot of money, at least on the surface. Intellichoice pegs the cost of the first four years of maintenance on a 2010 CTS sedan at $1,508. If that seems high, it is. Luxury cars typically cost more to maintain than your run-of-the-mill sedan. For instance, a 2010 Chevy Malibu will cost you $1,115 for maintenance over the same period -- 26 percent less than the Cadillac.

I think that disparity is a thorn in the side of luxury car buyers, who, despite being able to afford it, don't like being ripped off any more than anyone else does. Building the cost into the vehicle's price would seem to alleviate that pain a little bit, if not in substance, at least in appearance. After all, it seems obvious Cadillac wouldn't just take all of the maintenance costs out of its profit margin. Instead, buyers will probably still be paying more than they should for the same parts and service they would get cheaper on a regular vehicle, they'll just be doing it upfront in the Financing and Insurance room rather than later on at the service counter.

What do you think? Would free maintenance entice you to buy one luxury car over another, or step up to a luxury car from a more entry-level vehicle?

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