Free maintenance programs were once de rigeur for the upper ranks of the automobile industry, but the service has been dying a slow death with brands like Mercedes-Benz and Audi abandoning their programs. BMW and Saab kept theirs however, and Volkswagen recently announced the start of free maintenance for 2009 models sold in the U.S. Now Volvo has decided it's time to return to offering free service to its cars for three years.

The company had axed its free maintenance program in 2006 as a cost-cutting measure, but now the tide has turned and the Swedish brand is reinstating its three year/36,000mi (58,000km) coverage to draw in more buyers, reports Automotive News.

"The Volvo buyer is a practical buyer who studies the buying decisions and does a lot of research," said Dan Fields, who owns four Volvo dealerships. "The cost of owning the vehicle is now less."

The program only applies to new 2009 models, however, so the remaining 2008 models on dealer lots aren't eligible. At least one Volvo dealer thinks the move could have benefits down the road as well. "I expect more customers. They will bring the car in more often, and it will be better maintained - which means less problems and improved value," said David Karp, president of Karp Volvo in Rockville, New York.

Volvo itself is still potentially on the auction block, however, as Ford seeks to lighten its cost load and maintain its relatively strong position in comparison to rivals General Motors and Chrysler. Fellow Swedish brand, GM-owned Saab, could be facing a similar fate, though both companies are also beneficiaries of Sweden's recently announced $3.4 billion aid package to the car industry.