Subaru dealers get financial aid to boost fixed-operations capacity

Doll: Encouraging retailers to participate in the program.

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NEW ORLEANS -- Subaru dealers were given preliminary details of the brand's new program to increase fixed-operations capacity at its U.S. dealerships.

Called Fixed Operations Expansion, or FOX, Subaru wants to increase its service capacity by 70 percent in four years. Each dealer will receive a report with recommendations based on projected future growth by Subaru.

Dealers will get financial support from Subaru based on how much they spend for the service upgrades, said Phil Porter, chairman of the Subaru National Dealer Advisory Board and owner of Subaru stores in Connecticut and Florida.

"It is a fabulous deal and it is very fair. If someone came and offered you this kind of assistance and you didn't take it, you would be crazy," Porter said at the NADA convention here on Sunday.

He declined to provide details.

The expansion program aims to increase the number of lifts and service bays and to upgrade service technology, shop equipment and amenities, said Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America.

"We have a pool of money set aside, and how much we spend will depend on how many people sign up for the program," Doll said. "It is optional but we are highly encouraging our retailers to participate in the program."

Subaru is starting with its largest dealers and those with the biggest potential for growth. But eventually all 621 stores will have recommendations from Subaru, he said.

Additional and more modernized service areas are key to improving Subaru's low ratings in customer satisfaction surveys, said dealers and executives. Subaru has been rated near the bottom in recent J.D. Power and Associates service satisfaction surveys.

Subaru of America set its fifth consecutive sales record in 2013 with an increase of 26 percent to 424,683 vehicles. But dealers haven't been able to keep up with the number of vehicles coming in for service, Subaru executives said.

This year, Subaru expects sales to grow at a slower pace and increase to 460,000 units.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@crain.com. -- Follow Diana on Twitter


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