By on May 18, 2020

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]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

36 Comments on “Mk8 Golf Deliveries Suspended Over Software Gremlins...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Hopefully they don’t need different hardware to support good code.

    • 0 avatar

      That would be my fear. It kind of smells like a systems architecture problem that VW is trying to code around, and starting to get desperate. But I’m way out in the peanut gallery, so hopefully it’s just a bad look and they get it sorted out.

      Not that it matters to me, as I don’t like this digital interface stuff, so it’s firmly off my list for consideration.

      • 0 avatar

        You are not alone in your distaste for digital interfaces, but it’s a scourge that is only increasing in the industry. It’s just cheaper to install than the mechanicals it replaces, and offers what I call noisy, shiny cr*p that belongs in the back seat where it’s less of a distraction to the driver.

        It’s a shame that the drivetrains of late model cars have become so reliable, but the electronics are time bombs. I know people who are holding onto 15-20 year old cars because they’re cheaper to repair with older mechanical bits that have since been replaced with electronics that are becoming more complex and buggy.

        • 0 avatar

          “It’s a shame that the drivetrains of late model cars have become so reliable, but the electronics are time bombs.”… the irony of this statement is that it’s the electronics that have made the drivetrains so reliable on late model cars.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, but as the cars age will there be support for the electronics? For the largest sellers, probably. But what is going to happen to more niche products, even those from mainstream sellers? A great example is the C5 Corvette – it sold in decent numbers, but some of the electronics, namely the ABS module, are unique to this model. There are none left in the supply chain, and without it, you have a Christmas Tree dash. GM has offered the design drawings to any supplier that wants to take up the task of remanufacturing 90s era electronics but no takers. The demand for the part cannot generate enough sales to make it worthwhile. This is the destiny of many new(er) cars.

          • 0 avatar

            Driving my 20-year old Miata today, I reflected on how the turn of the millennium was really peak automobile. Still simple enough to replace most of the parts myself, just enough computer power to keep everything running smoothly.

            I doubt my ’18 GTI will still be on the road in 20 years.

        • 0 avatar

          My 2003 car had one of the early satnav screens. It was de-pixeling by the time the car died, in 2016, but still worked. I worry about the day my 2008 Acura nav decides to die…the DVD player is integral to the whole unit. OK, I use the screen nook for my smartphone and waze now, but still….

    • 0 avatar

      Well, despite all the speculation and dunning in the article for a good old rant, the reason apparently is the same as Mercedes. It’s a problem with the phone emergency services at accident time module. Details here:

      • 0 avatar

        But the bigger issue is the entire thing is a complete and total clusterfarkle. Wanna see just how bad? Check this out. I’ve queued it right where the fun begins.

  • avatar

    No knobs, no buttons. Does anyone other than Millenials really want that???
    As an old goat, I much prefer no screen and a lot of buttons, which I can adjust by feel, without taking my eyes off the road.

    • 0 avatar

      Mid-level executives in charge of “part number harmonization” and “cost control” love this stuff. People who have to use it, don’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly. I’m glad this article put a spotlight on it, and hope TTAC does this in every article where its applicable.

    • 0 avatar

      No Millennial I’m aware of wants it either.
      The ergonomics on the new Golf look awful. It’s like they took a Honda and decided to make it worse.

    • 0 avatar

      Telsa buyers?

      I sure don’t, and this digital cockpit is the main reason why I doubt there is a new GTI in my future, much as I love my ’17.

      But that said, good on them for not just going ahead and selling buggy cars with intention of “fixing it later”. Give credit where credit is due.

    • 0 avatar

      The oldest Millennials are almost 40.

      It’s time to start stereotyping a new generation.

      And no, we don’t want this either.

    • 0 avatar

      I prefer physical buttons, but on the steering wheel. In the photo, that seems to be the case. Along with that a good voice interface like Amazon Echo Auto. I use steering wheel controls for HVAC and volume, and the voice interface for audio selection and navigation. Being able to do stuff like saying “play the rolling stones album that was released in 1969” or just saying a song title or album can’t be easily done with physical controls. For satellite radio, you just as for the channel by name or number. I do like physical buttons for things like volume.

      • 0 avatar

        Well I hope VW’s voice controls are better on the MK8, because they are garbage on my 2018. 90% of the time it fails to recognize what I’m asking for. The complete inverse of Ford’s Sync3 system which most loathe, which worked great (for me) for music (but terribly for navigation).

  • avatar

    Software problems….. You can’t make this stuff up.

  • avatar

    “don’t worry, we’ll fix it in software”. Infamous words.

    When Honda did that on the original Civic Hybrid, to fix the battery issues, all they did was…code the battery out of the system. Not completely, but enough so that the battery lasted out the warranty.

    And the owner ended up with a 35mpg Civic, when he could have just bought the gasoline model to begin with and had a 34mpg Civic.

    “We’ll fix it in software.” Sure you will. Uh-huh. You know, I jumped from the Japanese world over to GTI on a 2017 GTI. That seems to be a sweet spot for VW. I have a feeling I’ll either have that for a LONG time, or else whatever replaces it won’t be another GTI.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, I waited a long time to pull the trigger on a GTI (2018, the 6-year warranty pushed me over the top), and it looks like this will be my first and last one.

      That interior is awful. I just see tons of expensive things waiting to break. Not to mention being incredibly chintzy looking (the exact opposite of the MK8) I expect VW’s warranty on the MK8 to be much shorter than the current warranty.

      • 0 avatar

        “opposite of the MK7”, I meant to say. A car that punches above its weight, even though the Mexican-built cars are said to have an inferior interior to the Euro cars.

        Kind of ironic that people were excited for Golf production to move back to Germany, but now they’re going to be using the same cheap uncovered cupholders as the Mexican MK7 cars.

  • avatar

    This is why you want to take a piecemeal, evolutionary approach to major system level changes. Make sure one component is working well before implementing second, third, and fourth. Never underestimate your QC schedule.

    You also start these things with niche, low volume models where any adverse effect from product delays or quality issues are minimal. Choose your guinea pigs wisely.

    VW must’ve missed Ford’s Great Leap Forward with MyFord Touch, Ecoboost, and PowerShift and all the issues that it brought, or maybe they thought it’s only an American thing.

  • avatar

    This is all too painful to watch. I’m going to take a nap – can someone wake me up in 36-48 months?

  • avatar

    Not invented here complex. Can you imagine German over-engineered SW with low tolerances that wasn’t subject of QA tests because The Deutsche Ingenieure write perfect code always?

    BTW Dieselgate SW was not a random bug. It is the perfect example of Intelligent Design.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    No knobs, no car.

  • avatar

    You’d think they’d have learned the lessons of CUE, which eventually broke down and gave you a knob. I hope this isn’t VW’s shark jump. Mk 6 or Mk 7 might be the e46 and e90 of VW. I hope not.

  • avatar

    What a shocker that a company known for electrical glitches and gremlins for the past 40 years can’t get software right either.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Duh. VW’s best software developers all went to prison over dieselgate.

  • avatar

    Agreed, I waited a long time to pull the trigger on a GTI (2018, the 6-year warranty pushed me over the top), and it looks like this will be my first and last one.

    That interior is awful. I just see tons of expensive things waiting to break. Not to mention being incredibly chintzy looking (the exact opposite of the MK7) I expect VW’s warranty on the MK8 to be much shorter than the current warranty.

  • avatar

    These mistakes are really stupid. Was no one at VW paying attention to what happened with the Civic volume knob? No one there thought that maybe the one thing they needed to get right was the software because of the software cheating diesel scandal?

    Talk about a monumental f-up.

    To carmakers, stop burying primary and secondary controls in on-screen menus. If I want to change the radio station, change the volume or add more bass, cut the crap and make it a button or knob. Something I can do while still driving and paying attention.

  • avatar

    Well, we were wondering why VW delayed the GTI’s American intro…

  • avatar

    Is that the same “shifter” that is in the new 911? Talk about parts harmonization there.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • mopar4wd: On a personal level I would really like an EV, and a pickup truck but not an EV pickup. But that comes down...
  • mcs: @wolfwagen; What he was saying was that essentially highways and other infrastructure has been used to reinforce...
  • dantes_inferno: A four-legged Bronco is far more reliable than a four-wheeled one.
  • Hayden535: McAuliffe lost because of mask mandates and him being a corporatist Democrat who offered no meaningful...
  • Astigmatism: I don’t see anything there that merits moderation – insulting the intelligence of our...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber