Free maintenance: Good news so far

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News
Free scheduled maintenance is getting to be quite the fad.

Lincoln just last week said it will add its Complimentary Maintenance Program to all 2011 models and beyond. Others offering free scheduled maintenance include Volvo, Jaguar, Cadillac, Volkswagen, BMW and Mini.

There's mixed feelings about this in the F&I department.

On the plus side, it makes customers happy. Finance managers who look at their dealership holistically figure free maintenance helps retain buyers and boosts the service business.

But what's going to happen to sales of extended service contracts?

Well, so far not much. Extended service contract penetration nationally is hanging in there, at about 40 percent of new loans and almost 45 percent of used loans, according to the Power Information Network.

It'll be interesting to see if this holds steady if more makers jump on the bandwagon.