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December 31, 2015

Pining for a Volvo with Cadillac Service

by Anne Paddock

My husband says that car service departments see me coming and that I may as well have a sign on my back that says “TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME” The thing is I am – like most people – at the mercy of a car service department. If a mechanic or service manager tells me I need to spend $386 to have my shocks replaced, I have no way of knowing whether this is true or not. For that reason, my husband, who owned automotive service centers for two decades, usually handles the car repairs. He is not, as I say “snowable.”

For seven years, I drove a Volvo wagon and because I travel often (with animals), I had to rely on Volvo dealerships in other cities, which hasn’t always been a positive experience. What typically happens is I go in for an oil change and then the service manager comes out with a very serious face and tells me there are about a six other services my car needs (this happened in the East Hartford, CT and the Bedford, Ohio Volvo dealerships). He goes over the list and I ask if these repairs are necessary to which he says something to the effect of “if my wife was driving this car, I would have it done.” So, then I get my husband on the phone with the service manager and come to realize…surprise…the car doesn’t need most of the repairs,  which is why I try to avoid the service department at Volvo and instead leave the car maintenance appointments to him.

Last year, we bought a Cadillac SRX on December 31st (apparently, a great day to buy cars..last day of the month and last day of the year so the dealership wants to gets cars out of their inventory). The car (referred to as a “crossover”) drives beautifully and the service department is unbelievable. Nearly everything (oil change, air filter, tire rotation, etc) is covered for 50,000 miles so I just make an appointment, drive the car in, hand the keys to the service manager who takes care of the repairs, has the car washed, and then hands the keys back to me. That’s it.

But, there is one problem. I don’t like the Cadillac SRX as much as the Volvo wagon because my vision is limited by the height and shape of the car, the computer system drives me nuts, and there isn’t as much room (I have two dogs, a cat, a husband, and a daughter). The Volvo wagon is also incredibly dependable (with 150,000 miles, it is still going strong albeit in my daughter’s college setting now). On the Cadillac side, the SRX is extremely comfortable especially for long distance drives and has that all important trusty service department that I can rely on.

I have to hand it to GM (who owns Cadillac) for the ingenious idea of including the basic service in the sale of their cars. Not only do customers have to come back to Cadillac but they also realize what a great service department the company has, which is what will make my next car purchase decision difficult. Maybe Volvo will get wind of GM’s strategy and make some changes or maybe GM will buy Volvo which would make my next decision easier.

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