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Ford's new service program changes the game

Ford's capped-price service program is now Australia's longest service program.

Ford has extended its capped-price service program to seven years and 135,000km from six years and 105,00km. It is now Australia's longest service program.

Ford says there is value in the capped-price service program — the concept of confirming a maximum service cost for a set period of ownership — with an increase of 13,000 service customers in 2013. Its program started in July 2011.

The myFord program even comes with two new lures — a 12 month free membership to the state auto club including roadside assistance and, for commercial operators, the inclusion of the Transit van.

Ford says that in addition to its service cost structure, it has announced maximum charges for brakes. Its capped-price brake program is $259 for factory front disc pads, $219 for rear pads and $88 for disc rotor machining. Falcon and Territory rear pads are $259. It is available on all its vehicles built since 2007.

Of the Top 10 passenger car makers (by year-to-date sales to February 28) all — including Mercedes-Benz — have a capped-price service program. Recent entries to the list include Honda and Mazda while Subaru — the only volume small-car maker without a program — is expected to launch around the middle of the year.

But annual service costs provided by Subaru for its 2.0-litre Impreza range show it to be well within the price bracket of the capped-price service programs offered by rivals.  One of the first to expand on the three-year program was Kia. It says its customer service surveys since launch last year have shown its five-year program has boosted business for its dealers.

Prices sourced this week by Carsguide from 10 small-car makers vary enormously in annual outlay from $185 (Holden Cruze) to $588 (Nissan Pulsar).  Buyers should consider that some cars need twice-yearly services, potentially doubling cost and inconvenience.

The programs were introduced to maintain service customers. Service and parts are one of the most profitable arms of a dealership, supporting reduced profit margins on new-car sales. One selling point for customers is that capped-price service programs are carried out by factory-trained technicians using factory service and diagnostic equipment. Dealer serviced vehicles can have higher resale value.

COSTS:  annual service cost of petrol sedans

Ford Focus: 7 year/135,000km program. 7 services. $366/year
Holden Cruze: 3 year/60,000km program. 4 services. $185/year
Nissan Pulsar: 6 year/120,000km program. 12 services. $588/year
Hyundai i30: 3 year/45,000km program. 3 services. $219/year
Kia Cerato: 5 year/75,000km program. 5 services. $366/year
Mazda 3: lifetime program. 1 service/year. $303/year
Mitsubishi Lancer: 4 year/60,000km program. 4 services. $250/year
Honda Civic: 5 year/100,000km program. 10 services. $514/year
Volkswagen Golf: 6 year/90,000km. 6 services. $352/year
Suzuki Kizashi: 5 year/100,000km. 10 services. $516/year
Subaru Impreza: No program. 6mth services. $520/year

This reporter is on Twitter: @cg_dowling