NEW ORLEANS -- Subaru of America wants to increase service capacity 70 percent in four years and will pay dealers to do so.
Subaru dealers received preliminary details of the initiative at the make meeting.
Under the program, called Fixed Operations Expansion, or FOX, each dealer will receive a report from Subaru with recommendations based on projected growth.
Dealers will get financial support from Subaru based on how much they spend for the service improvements, 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," Porter said. "If someone came and offered you this kind of assistance and you didn't take it, you would be crazy."
He declined to provide details.
The program aims to increase the number of lifts and bays and to improve 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," he said. "It is optional, but we are highly encouraging our retailers to participate."
Subaru is starting with its largest dealers and those with the biggest potential for growth. But eventually all 621 stores will get recommendations from Subaru, he said.
Updated 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.
Ernie Boch Jr., CEO of Subaru of New England, the largest of the two remaining privately owned U.S. Subaru distributors, said his 63 stores will not participate in the program because they have enough lifts.
Subaru of America set its fifth straight sales record in 2013 with an increase of 26 percent to 424,683 vehicles. But dealers have been unable 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.