During a recent day, John Higgins fixed a seat latch on a suburban mom's Volvo V70 wagon. Then he disassembled her bathroom doorknob -- freeing her 3-year-old daughter, who had locked herself in.
Meet Boston Volvo's special weapon. Higgins is the dealership's mobile technician. He logged 47,000 miles in a decaled XC90 last year, taking care of customers at their homes, offices and elsewhere.
Boston Volvo has offered the service since June 2004. It was set up as a Volvo Cars of North America program when the brand was looking for ways for dealers to boost service and parts business. Volvo ended the program during the recession.
"The corporation did not want to fund it, and most dealers found it costly to operate," says Dan Leahy, general manager of Boston Volvo. Only a few dealerships, including Leahy's, kept their programs.
Leahy says the dealership makes little money on the mobile technician service. But he is certain it has increased service business -- and drawn many new customers. The mobile technician will service any Volvo in the Boston area, Leahy says .
"Customers comment about it all the time, and it helps us close sales in these competitive times," he says. "We show customers all the ways we will assist them."
Leahy says the XC90 crossover used for the service is also a sales opportunity. "We put all the accessories on our vehicle -- Bluetooth and roof racks," he says. "While getting their cars repaired, customers will say, 'That's an amazing vehicle,' and our technician then shows the rear-seat entertainment or other system."
Leahy says he has gotten hundreds of e-mails and phone calls praising Higgins and thanking the dealership.