Mk8 Golf Deliveries Suspended Over Software Gremlins

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mk8 golf deliveries suspended over software gremlins

We don’t know what’s going on with Volkswagen’s software, but if the automaker doesn’t sort it out quickly, it runs the risk of becoming infamous for it. Technical glitches have plagued the launch of Volkswagen Group’s most recent models; so much so, it’s starting to become a trend.

Obviously, there were “software issues” that allowed VW to circumvent emissions testing before the Dieselgate scandal kicked off in 2015, but few people actually believe that was the result of rogue computer code, rather than a corporate attempt to dodge strengthened environmental regulations.

These new issues appear to be generalized glitches stemming from the company’s jump into vehicular connectivity. With the upcoming ID.3 EV, Volkswagen opted to keep its summer 2020 launch and handle existing software glitches (the car had already entered limited production for first-edition models) with a software fix offered at a later date. Yet the more we learn about it, the worse the overall situation appears. Rumors suggest the ID.3 may have a slower-than-anticipated roll-out, with fewer features than originally advertised.

We’re now learning the same might be true for the Mk8 Golf — another new model experiencing technical glitches. This generation saw the model swap to a digitized interface offering enhanced connectivity, in line with the industry’s push to make cars more modern. Sadly, these changes haven’t panned out ideally for either the automaker or its customers. VW has had to stall deliveries of the new Golf to address another round of software issues.

Having already endured a production delay under vaguely similar circumstances, German outlet Der Spiegel reports that Volkswagen recently confirmed the Golf was discovered to have an issue during some routine quality assurance investigations. These new problems are alleged to stem from software (basically OnStar) that enables automatic emergency calls and GPS tracking following an accident.

‘No biggy,’ we hear you saying. ‘Just disable it.’

Well, things are a little more complicated than that. The European Union has mandated that such features be installed on all automobiles manufactured since 2018. Volkswagen needs to have this system installed and functional by law — and it isn’t cooperating with other systems found in the Mk8, creating all new problems that somehow still seem familiar. Months earlier, VW said it would have to delay production of the car after becoming aware of problems with over-the-air updates and the vehicle’s multimedia interface.

Your author believes the German carmaker already shot itself in the foot by abandoning physical buttons and knobs for touch- and voice-sensitive controls. While the alterations do make the Mk8 Golf’s interior quite handsome, these kinds of changes rarely go over well with the public. They also smack of cost-cutting. Why spend a few cents on a volume knob when you can code for the ubiquitous display to have a touch-sensitive volume slider?

If you don’t care about the user experience, then there is no reason.

One gets the feeling that VW is in for a rude awakening. Honda found out the hard way that a wonky digital interface is incredibly bad for business. When it nixed volume knobs for touchable sliders a few years ago, the world cried bloody murder until Honda swapped back. However, Volkswagen is applying this theory to the Golf’s entire cabin — and it sounds like things haven’t worked out as intended. Features are reportedly having issues interfacing with each other, potentially rendering the car a total drag to live with if they’re not sorted quickly.

Again, this could have been avoided by taking all of those connectivity features the industry is so eager to implement and throwing them directly into the trash. But then they’d never be able to sell you in-app purchases and harvest your personal data, diluting long-term business plans. Frankly, we get the feeling VW prioritized this data-driven business model at the expense of its physical product. Software headaches are now fairly normal for the German manufacturer, yet it seems dead set on pushing the technology through as quickly as it can manage.

Of course, launching a high-volume model in various states of disrepair remains a bad idea. While VW might feel secure in releasing the ID.3 preemptively in need of a software fix, it cannot do this with the Golf. Its problems already place it at odds with European law; meanwhile, the public will not embrace a mainstream model plagued by technical gremlins — especially one that positions its flashy new interior as its crowning achievement.

As such, Volkswagen is storing every Mk8 Golf manufactured thus far. It hopes to have a software fix implemented within the next month, though at this point nothing’s been confirmed. We should also note that VW is far from the only automaker having issues with software. Mercedes-Benz was recently found to have similar coding problems with its emergency call system communication module, as well.

[Images: Volkswagen]

Join the conversation
2 of 36 comments
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"
  • ToolGuy When Farley says “like the Millennium Falcon” he means "fully updatable" and "constantly improving" -- it's right there in the Car and Driver article (and makes perfect sense).