“We really do try to keep the bigger picture in mind,” he said. “We want to encourage people to come back. We don't want to kick them off the program. Everybody misses a service or is late for a service or is down in Florida and has to have their oil changed there. If they demonstrate intent to stay loyal with us, we will find a way to honor the intent of the agreement.”
John Hutchins, who manages the dealership's business development center, said customers pay an average of $800 to $900 to follow the Subaru maintenance schedule in their vehicle's first 35,000 miles, which is around when the original set of tires needs replacing. On some vehicles, the free tires would cost nearly $800, including installation, he said, meaning the savings can almost equal the total paid for maintenance to that point.
“We don't use it as a revenue generator,” Mr. Hutchins said. “The benefit for us is they keep coming in for service, and a happy service customer will buy more cars from you.”
Despite its name, the program has a maximum benefit of $2,000 per vehicle, which is enough to cover the length of time most customers keep their vehicles. Mr. Politte said he has made adjustments over the years to keep the program working, particularly as wheel sizes have grown and tire prices have increased, making its cost rise “exponentially.”
The dealership usually installs Sumitomo-brand tires, which it chose based on high ratings from Consumer Reports. But customers can select more expensive brands if they pay any price difference and can have them installed sooner than the program allows for a prorated charge, based on how much tread depth is left.
“Tires for Life” is one of three relatively uncommon free perks that form Stanley Subaru's “Preferred Guest Package.” The store also offers a lifetime powertrain protection plan on most used vehicles and provides loaners — Outbacks, Foresters, Imprezas and Crosstreks that are less than 6 months old — during any type of service visit.
The powertrain coverage is good on any used vehicle that's no more than nine model years old and has fewer than 85,000 miles when purchased. That benefit is provided through an outside insurance policy that Hutchins said costs the dealership about $300 per vehicle.
Mr. Politte, who used to work in sales and marketing at Ford Motor Co., bought the dealership in 2004 from his father-in-law, Dick Stanley, who opened it in 1999. Mr. Stanley, a longtime education and training executive with Chevrolet, died in 2012.
Mr. Politte said Subaru used to provide customer-retention data showing that Stanley Subaru was one of its top five dealerships in the country by that metric. He said his loyalty rate remains high but the comparison data are no longer shared.
But there are other measures of loyalty: One customer has been so appreciative that she brings in homemade baked goods for the staff every week.