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Carmakers add perks to purchases

| Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011

Luxury auto makers are laying on the perks to distinguish their brand from their competitors.

Nissan said its upscale Infiniti division will offer a free concierge service for buyers of its vehicles.

The Infiniti Personal Assistant will give owners unlimited 24-hour access to a live team of professional assistants who can provide driving directions, weather forecasts, dining suggestions and reservations, travel arrangements and sports scores through the car's Bluetooth system or even away from the vehicle by phone.

The service is good for four years to one registered driver of the vehicle and is not transferable. Service for a second driver is $199 at the time of the car's purchase. Other carmakers, including BMW and Cadillac, charge for similar services.

But concierge services aren't the only enticements manufacturers are offering to attract buyers.

BMW includes four years of maintenance with the purchase of its vehicles.

Equus, a luxury sedan from Hyundai, comes with an iPad instead of an owner's manual and a concierge service for maintenance. An Equus technician will come to the owner's house or office when the vehicle needs service, pick up the car and drop off a loaner car. Hyundai then brings the serviced vehicle back to the owner.

"The brands tend to offer things based on their strengths," said Dan Hall, an analyst at AutoPacific Inc., an industry consulting firm in Tustin, Calif. "Lexus doesn't offer years of maintenance because they are known for being reliable. But BMW is known as Break My Wallet, so they had to do something."

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