Where Your Author Requires a Volkswagen Quality Control Remedy

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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where your author requires a volkswagen quality control remedy

In the most recent installment of Your Author’s CPO Volkswagen Follies, I shared the slow process which was the purchase of my 2019 Golf Sportwagen. At the end of that piece, I mentioned it was already at the dealer for a rattle after two weeks of ownership.

It’s back in my possession now, and it’s fixed. Any bets on how long it took, and how many trips were made to the dealer’s service center?

As mentioned before, shortly after purchase I noted a distinct rattle in the headliner above my head. It happened over bumps and uneven ground, usually in situations where the car was flexing in some way. The noise was fairly noticeable and repeatable, so I made an appointment to bring it in on January 6th. They’d have a loaner ready for me, I was assured.

I arrived early in the morning, hoping to beat the rush of customers and be on my way to work in short order. The nice lady at the counter greeted me and quickly relayed they did not, in fact, have my loaner request marked in the computer. I’d have to wait for one to arrive in a moment; luckily it was “just down the street, shuttling a customer.” Off to the waiting room I went, after I’d filled out the requisite paperwork.

Apparently said shuttle was on the other side of town, because it was a full 40 minutes before the loaner (a base model 2020 Jetta S) arrived. It was fairly dirty on the outside, but at least the interior was clean. After a review with the service advisor for any existing damage to the loaner, I was on my way. A bit steamed, I went to work and started a day that was already running 50 minutes late. That same day, I received a call at exactly 3:50 p.m.

“Hi, I’m the loaner fleet manager, and we’ve had a mix-up with the packets on the cars. We gave you the wrong car and we need it back.”

I could feel my blood pressure once again rising as I asked, “Well how’d that happen?”

“The packets got mixed up, so we really need that car back today. Can you bring it over?” Could I travel across town at 4:00 p.m. on a weekday to return a car I was mistakenly given? No, not really. After I relayed I’d been inconvenienced enough for that day, the associate offered to bring me a new loaner and swap out the mistake.

“That’s fine, bring it to work tomorrow,” I said. I was assured the driver would be there at 9:00 a.m. sharp.

Next day, I received a text at 9:25 a.m. that my new Jetta SE was five minutes away. I proceeded to the lobby, where I waited 25 minutes for the driver to show up in a base model Passat S (reviewed here). Cars swapped, I went about my day. There was radio silence, apart from one check-in a couple days later. The service advisor indicated they thought they’d found the issue, and had to look into it further.

Two weeks later I got the call my car was finished — all fixed! The dealer said there’d been an issue with the torque of the roof bolts from the factory, and loose things up there caused the rattle. They tightened the bolts to spec, and now all was quiet. Great, I’d come in the next day between meetings to get the Golf.

Perhaps you can see where this is headed.

That particular morning my service manager wasn’t there, so I dealt with a different one. Given the issues thus far, I wanted to check the car out before signing anything. The Golf was pulled around, and it looked like a car looks when it sits outside for two weeks and doesn’t move. Inside, the story grew more grim: It hadn’t been through even a cursory cleaning. Grease and dirt marks marred the headliner, the door panels, the seats, and a loose piece of pillar trim at the rear hung by a single clip. A perplexed look was upon the associate’s face as I turned around and informed him this really wasn’t gonna cut it.

“Oh, uh okay. We can have someone fix it up real quick if you have time to wait.”

“No, I don’t have time — I have to go back to work. Let me know when it’s ready.”

Turn-around on the cleaning job was a few hours, so I went back again the next morning. All appeared in good order, apart from one smallish headliner mark. My service advisor had returned, and said she didn’t know why they told me the car was ready before it went through detail. They cleaned up the headliner mark with their special solvent of rubbing alcohol and paint thinner, and I went on my way to work…

In a car which still had the same rattle as before.

Oh yeah, and the cargo cover had vanished, too. This time I sent an email, so my complaint would be in writing (and received within an hour of the time I picked up the car). Response from the service department was quick, and from the shop’s manager this time. Form letter apology; they wanted to make this right.

Another trip to the dealer, fourth time’s the charm perhaps? They came and picked it up on this occasion, and left me a 2019 Jetta SEL with the big sunroof and power everything (it was dirty everywhere, but a pretty good car). Three or four business days later, the Golf was ready. This time they’d really really got it fixed.

Except it wasn’t. At least it was clean this time. As the service advisor watched me look it over, I pressed on the headliner with my fist and heard the same familiar rattling sound. I took it for a drive around the block (nobody from the dealer would go with me) and quickly replicated the same rattle. Back it went to the service bay; the shop manager couldn’t believe it wasn’t fixed.

“We fixed the sound!”

I shook my head, “Would you like me to show you right now?”

At the car, I pressed on the headliner and the cacophonous rattle emitted from above my head. “Oh, we were fixing a different sound, one we heard around the sun visor.”

I was aghast. “Uh, what? This is the same noise I’ve been complaining about, all five times I’ve been here.” I replicated the sound some more.

The shop manager was a bit more keen in the visual department than the service advisor, and noted there was considerable flex when the headliner above the driver’s head was pressed. This was not the case on the passenger side, where everything in the same area felt more firm.

“I think you’re going to need a whole new headliner,” she said. “So I just want to let you know that’s going to be a lot of work.”

I shrugged, “Well, have at it.”

She checked in the parts computer and found a headliner could be delivered the next day. It would take two “or so” days to install, and then my car would be fixed. They were very apologetic it took this many tries to fix things. I left in the Jetta, finally feeling like I’d achieved something.

Three days later, I received another call. Once the shop dropped the roof fully, the issue was more clear: At the factory, the fiberglass headliner was deformed above the driver’s head. The fiberglass layer itself was thin in that area, as if it had run to one side during the drying process. It was fixed now, for sure.

Next morning, the service advisor was there but the manager was absent from view. A press on the headliner revealed a much more firm surface than before, the car was completely clean inside and out, and the cargo cover had reappeared. I took it for a spin to confirm all was well, and it was!

Four trips and 27 days later, and my Golf had an all-new headliner to replace the misshapen one that should never have passed a QC check. The dealer billed Volkswagen however many thousands it was for the replacement and all the loaner vehicle time, and was made whole.

I can’t say the same about my faith in VW’s quality control. Maybe the Golf will be trouble-free for the next 50,000 miles — fingers crossed.

[Images: Corey Lewis / TTAC]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.

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  • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Feb 20, 2020

    My 02 Passat was in the shop for unscheduled service 12 times in 3 years, the last one because it burned 3 quarts of oil in 3000 miles. It never qualified for the lemon law because so many *different* things went wrong. I dumped it as the 36k mile warranty expired, but the dealer was always pleasant to work with. My 05 Odyssey simply had the same thing go wrong from the day I bought it until I dumped it 20 months later (power sliding door). It *did* qualify for the lemon law, and I received a small settlement check for my troubles. I kept a spreadsheet of every contact with the dealer, and it totaled around 35 contacts during my ownership. My loaner story was similar to Corey's. The dealer also damaged the body of my car while it was in their shop, while they were performing a "stretching" operation on the door's wiring harness. Yep, and they fixed the damage, too. The arrogant Honda dealer will never get my business again.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 22, 2020

    I like the looks of Corey's wagon but I wouldn't touch any German car with a 20 foot pole especially the ones made in Mexico. I would rather have a boring appliance like vehicle with better reliability. Just my opinion but I am done with high maintenance and fussy vehicles or anything else that requires high maintenance.

  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.
  • FreedMike Many F150s I encounter are autonomously driven...and by that I mean they're driving themselves because the dips**ts at the wheel are paying attention to everything else but the road.
  • Tassos A "small car", TIM????????????This is the GLE. Have you even ever SEEN the huge thing at a dealer's??? NOT even the GLC,and Merc has TWO classes even SMALLER than the C (The A and the B, you guessed it? You must be a GENIUS!).THe E is a "MIDSIZED" crossover, NOT A SMALL ONE BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION, oh CLUELESS one.I AM SICK AND TIRED OF THE NONSENSE you post here every god damned day.And I BET you will never even CORRECT your NONSENSE, much less APOLOGIZE for your cluelessness and unprofessionalism.