By on July 8, 2021

Last we left off in the Golf Sportwagen Ultimate Decision story, the appointment was set for corrections on the headliner and panel issues I’d pointed out as a result of the headliner service. A late June morning, already a hot and muggy day. Your author is seen waiting by the door.

The 28th (last Monday), I was fully prepared to hand off the keys for the 10:00 AM appointment time. I’d planned to head out by 10:15 as I had a couple of places to be. The minutes ticked to 10:00, then past it, then past a bit more. Off to a good start on my appointment.

At 10:30 I tried calling the service manager directly to see what was up with the appointment, but couldn’t get through. As soon as I hung up and dialed the main service line, I got a text from some local number. There was no name or intro in the text so I’m not sure from whom it originated. They were sorry (whoever it was), but had been busy that morning and the time got away from them. There would be someone coming out to bring me the loaner, leaving in “a few minutes.”

I guess I was under the impression that service departments ran on appointments and that most days were busy, but perhaps that was a faulty assumption on my part. I replied to the text and asked about an ETA, as I had things to do this morning and it was messing with my schedule. No reply.

After waiting a few more minutes (about 18) I got a phone call from someone at the dealer, confirming my address to pick up the car. “Didn’t they call you to let you know what’s up?” No, no they didn’t. This new associate reassured me he was on his way in a couple of minutes. And finally, at 11:10 they showed up for the 10:00 appointment, with a white 2021 Tiguan SE. That one wasn’t worth reviewing because I covered the S trim already. In short, the SE added nicer seats and trim and a big glass roof but did nothing to improve the uneasy relationship between engine and transmission.

Overall, the morning was a frustrating experience on what should’ve been a very simple key exchange. Those feelings of frustration stuck with me the next few days. Neither of the overarching headliner issues were caused by the dealer’s service department – one was down to poor quality control and the other to bad design. But what was down to the service department were the missed appointments, forgotten calls, and inattention to detail regarding headliner cleanliness, installation, trim panels, and all the rest. Was it really worth dealing with this for years? I’d started to think it wasn’t. In Part III we’ll wrap up this saga once and for all.

[Images: Corey Lewis / The Truth About Cars]

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66 Comments on “Where Your Author Ultimately Decides to Give Up Golf (Part II)...”


  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    When my car is in for service (anywhere) I always feel like this:
    https://peanuts.fandom.com/wiki/May_1971_comic_strips?file=19710529.gif

  • avatar
    ajla

    “Why does it matter if it’s under warranty?”

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      +1 at the beginning of this saga I mentioned this. “Free” fixes still cost you time and aggravation. Especially when your going on round 2 or 3 of the same repair or something related to a previous repair attempt.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        He’ll get put on the back burner when the non-drivable owners come in.

        But what a perfect car for a journalist to report on as it is the gift that keeps giving.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I think a lack of time or willingness to deal with dealer service departments, because I expect experiences exactly like these, explains a lot about my vehicle choices in the last decade or so.

    Neither of the current two daily cars has required a single unscheduled maintenance item over about 2 1/2 years of ownership so far (bought them both in the same very expensive week).

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      I’m like you. I’m curious, what do you own?

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        2019 Chevy Bolt, bought new, now with 12k. The only scheduled maintenance so far (2 1/2 years) has been a single tire rotation and cabin filter replacement.

        2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, bought used at 43k, now at 60k. It’s had four oil changes, two tire rotations, and a bunch of other minor maintenance items due at 60k. I did lose a 12v battery, expected at this age. It’ll need brake pads all around and probably front rotors (a bit warped) within the next year or so.

  • avatar
    jmo

    I had a question in the other post. Do people find that service and competence varies between makes under the same dealer group? I don’t know of very many stand alone dealers. It’s usually Acme VW which is part of the Acme Auto Group that also owns a Ford, Honda, BMW, Kia etc. dealership. In my experience the sketchy auto groups are universally sketchy and the non-sketchy ones are usually all pretty good.

    Some commenters have said “VW dealers” as if they are part of VW and not a division of XYZ Auto Group.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      Louisville has a few families that run a lot of dealers – the Swopes, Wylers, Huffmans, Bachmans, and whoever runs the Oxmoor chain – I think that is a family as well. I think the standards are set by the family running the dealership. I’ve had good luck with multiple service shops, and no comment about some of the Honda shops. When it’s under warranty, just bite the bullet. But competition is so fierce that I’ve seen dealer shops bend over backwards with perks to keep you coming after the warranty expires.

      • 0 avatar
        SirRaoulDuke

        The Swopes sold their Louisville dealerships (except for Toyota of Louisville) back in 2015, to Terry Taylor’s big outfit out of Florida.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This sounds just like my lemon Honda ownership experience.

    The car was bad; the dealer service department was worse. Poor communication, damaged the vehicle in the shop, multiple trips for the same things, inappropriate loaners (a Corolla from Enterprise for a minivan?), lies, and an attitude that varied between arrogance and indifference.

    It’s surprising mfrs don’t push harder to cut out dealers – they add cost and by proxy they easily damage the mfr’s reputation.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I’ve heard lemon Hondas are especially maddening as the reaction from the dealer is that it must be due to user error.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Long experience with Honda indicates that anything, ANYTHING that malfunctions or fails after the new owner touches his/her keys the first time is owner abuse/misuse as Honda’s are perfect in every way.

      • 0 avatar
        Weltron

        You and Bullnuke hit the nail on the head. If you have any failure in a Honda, it’s the owners fault, not Honda.

        My dad has a 2016 Civic. His first ever new car. Was thrilled when he got it.

        When the car hit 40k, the steering wheel started falling apart. Apparently this was kind of a known thing with the Civic’s of this time. He spoke to the Honda dealer, as he figured it was just out of warranty that they would at least help him a little bit. Honda denied the claim, and the dealer ended up calling Honda corporate. They denied it again because they claimed my dad used “hand lotion” and that reacted with the materials on the wheel. The dealer, after some back and forth replaced the wheel on their dime. At 80k, that replacement wheel started falling apart. So, he went to Walmart and bought a steering wheel cover instead.

        Another sore spot is the AC condenser on these cars. Honda knows they were bad and had sent a bullitin a couple years prior stating that if the condenser failed within 10 years, they would replace it on their dime. Well, the AC failed, and it was the condenser. Honda refused to pay for it. They claimed it had “stone damage”. The dealer was rude and arrogant about the whole matter. When my dad got the car back, he had a very stern conversation with the service manager and asked him “so, what’s going to stop this condenser from getting” stone damage “?

        The managers reply?” Well nothing, really. ”

        He still has the car. Still likes it. But he won’t be buying another Honda.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      I’ve had terrible experience with Honda dealers as well if there’s any issues beyond normal servicing and maintenance. “Wait, you have a problem with your car? Blasphemy.” This sentiment and experience spanned two completely different models (1999 Accord EXL 4cyl and 2012 Pilot EXL), two completely different decades (1999-2008 for the Accord and 2013-2018 for the Pilot) and two completely different states (Virginia and South Carolina). The Accord cost me over $5000 in CEL repairs- not including the two replacement transmissions under warranty, in the last two years of ownership and 120k miles. The Pilot had pending terminal engine failure at 85k miles (rod bearing material in the oil) and our entire tenure with the car was riddled with little aggravations mostly pertaining to “VTM” and the way their Eco mode functioned. I’ll never go back to the H. Traded in the Accord for a Mazda 6 and it never missed a beat, traded in the Pilot on a ’17 Explorer XLT (3.5NA AWD) and it’s been phenominal for 63k miles.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Mexico-built VW…. I warned you.

    • 0 avatar
      theflyersfan

      I can’t speak for Corey, but I’m already in the time out corner wondering what’s next with my Mexican built VW with only 6300 miles. I’ve spent more time in dealer service areas in the past six months on non-scheduled maintenance and repairs than i have with decades of Honda and Nissan (when they were good) cars.
      Counting the days until the official Civic Si and Type-R reveal…

    • 0 avatar
      Oberkanone

      Chevrolet dealer failed to demonstrate the desire or talent to repair my Silverado electrical issue. My next truck will not be GM.

      Quality of dealership is an important factor when we purchase new or used vehicles. Not the most important, yet important.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I’m impressed with my Ramos Arizpe assembled (and painted) Blazer.
      Zero issues in 18 months.
      Also the (quite complex) 9T50 trans produced at San Luis Potosi

    • 0 avatar
      cruster

      Of course – the robots that make the cars in Mexico MUST be different from the robots that make the cars in Wolfsburg. You’re totally right and not at all racist!

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    I type this while having to take a couple of hours from work and currently sit in the VW service area due to the infotainment system constantly locking up and/or crashing and making it inoperable. It doesn’t help that this dealer is also a Mazda dealer and I’m currently staring at the MX-5 PHT that I probably should have bought.

    I like the look and feel of the VW, but the quality issues might end up making this a short term relationship.

    And I found some white Golf Sportwagens (2019) with beige leatherette for sale in the greater Cincinnati area. The websites failed to mention to wear a poncho in the car when it rains.

    • 0 avatar
      DungBeetle62

      I had a similar experience, since the MX5 PRHT and VW Eos debuted right about the same time at the nearby Mazda-VW house. Good thing I made the right choice there.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s my car you see listed. That will be mentioned tomorrow.:)

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        The website didn’t mention fire damage or a caved in front caused by a tree. Corey, you are more patient than I!!!

        At least the dealer let me check out and try the new ID.4 when I was there. Came away very impressed and they sunk some decent money in the interior. But VW electronics…ouch.

        DungBeetle – Neil Huffman VW/Mazda/Subaru? It’s a good crew they have there and will deal. But their lot, especially new cars, is picked over. I saw few new Mazdas, one Atlas, a few GTIs and Taos, and I think 1 or 2 new Jettas. Maybe they have more hiding…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I nominate myself to choose the car that replaces it.

  • avatar
    6250Claimer

    My formerly local VW dealer (now I’m 3 hours away unfortunately) has a spectacular service department. I still go back there for service. I can make a 9:30am appointment for a 30k service and wait for the car. It will be done by 10:30. Loaner available if desired. I’ve done several of these appointment-and-wait visits, and they’ve always worked on my car immediately as scheduled and gotten me out quickly. It’s amazing. And it’s not a small store – a metric buttload of service bays and always very busy. On top of this fantastic service, their pricing is super competitive too – they even post a comparison list of various service jobs and show competing prices in the area, always beaten by these guys.

    So yes, it CAN be done. Unfortunately this kind of thing has always been unheard of at the average VW store. My past experiences align with the author’s.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    (deleted)

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    I very much like my 2016 Sportwagen but it will be my last VW due to two egregious errors on the part of the service department involving brakes and tires. Not even polite but firm letters with pictures elicited even a shrug in response.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      They have your money. They no longer care what you have to say. You’re little more than a cash machine with legs.

      VW may be worse than others, but not that much worse.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Wonder if that’s an excuse to contact the zone office or whatever the next step up the chain from the dealer would be?! It may do no good, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to try.

      The one VW dealer nearest me could never get my Mom’s 2000 Jetta right when she had it in for service (the fact that the MkIV Jetta was a rolling pile notwithstanding; my Mom had gotten rid of the thing years ago anyway), but they messed up a Motor Trend long-term loaner Passat after the DSG went tango-uniform on a nearby freeway, pretty much destroying the interior during a complimentary detail for taking several weeks to replace the transmission. The owners of the dealer group were sketchy anyway, but it sure seems like a positive VW service experience is the exception, not the rule!

  • avatar
    jkross22

    3

    That is the number of hours you add on top of a dealer estimate for how long it will take to perform routine service. I’m just talking about oil changes, or in Mercedes’ case, a ‘B’ service. If they tell you 4 hours, assume it’s an all day service.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      I remember back in 2007 I was still working for a Volvo dealer in Richmond, VA and we piloted a “mobile technician” program for Volvo Cars North America. They allocated us an XC90 V8 complete with a full diagnostic suite, cargo area mounted tool kit and jacks/stands. Our technician would COME TO YOU to change your oil, rotate tires, perform routine maintenance, and perform minor diagnostic work. If it needed further work, the tech could set up the appointment for you at your house/place of business.

      Needless to say, it only ran for about a year before Volvo deemed it not profitable to offset costs, so they killed the program.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    A normal business wouldn’t attempt such poor service, overpriced, shoddy work and ripping off the public. Like anything else, know exactly what you’re buying, price/parts availability, proprietary software, who can work on it or willing to.

    Many regular independents won’t work on VWs and the dealer is quite aware of this. The problem isn’t so much the VWs, but owners lose their minds over Porsche-like estimates.

  • avatar
    EX35

    Makes you wonder with experiences like this, why people even buy VW anymore. The last few VWs I drove completely lost the Germanic build and feel that use to justify the cost and inconvenience of repairs. Now, to me at least, they drive no different from Hyundais, but with worse reliability, warranty, service, and cost.

    • 0 avatar
      CoastieLenn

      The same reason why Honda and Toyota vehicles have their own fair share of QC issues and reliability concerns, but their brand image and loyal customer base don’t seem to care. VW may not have the brand image of “quality”, but their customer base seldom cross shops any other brand. They sell volume off of what they *were*, not what they *are*. At least Toyota is very good about making sure issues get fixed, whereas VW just accepts that it’s cars are garbage and Honda refuses to admit their cars could conceivably have any problems.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        It varies wildly. Toyota dealers can be just as criminal, but the problem is they’re guaranteed an endless stream of victims.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          There’s also good Honda dealers, as well as awful ones! I’ve got a great one, another Toledo-area one is “meh,” and there’s one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy!

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Polarizing Car Topic Anecdote #546…DISCUSS…

  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    So with VW’s long standing tendency to NOT build reliable electronics and borderline abhorrent service (broad painted stroke, I know), does anyone else have high hopes for the ID line of vehicles that are nothing but electronics?

    I’ve seen a couple ID.4’s running the streets of Honolulu in the last few weeks and I LOVE the look of them and the interior is really awesome, but I just can’t help to think how much of a future lemon that thing will be.

  • avatar
    72MGB

    I have had my share of bad dealer service experience, but not since we started buying Subarus. The lack of unscheduled services (as in one) certainly help. Since 2004 and 300,000 miles between 3 of them, (2 Foresters with 110,000, and current Forester with 150,000 and current WRX with 55,000,) I have been very happy with Sewell in Dallas Texas and Subaru of Austin (Texas.) Our only unscheduled visit was at 120,000 in the current Forester while on a road trip. AC compressor sized and Subaru dealer in Pensacola was a pleasant experience. I doubt we will ever buy another brand.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      >72
      My Forester is almost 4 years old. 40,000 miles. Zero problems except A/C System recall for a 3 hour fix (stuff happens – no big). They drove me home and picked me up at the appointed time.

      I love driving a car I CAN SEE OUT OF and its not a Toyota/Honda. It also is a good ride quality for a car I take on US Forest Service Roads – deep off the highway.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Dude, Part II was supposed to be “Attack of the Recalls” not Part I “The Phantom Service Advisor”.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    Without exception every dealer experience I’ve ever had was bad. This goes bad to a VW in 1979. Just really abusive experiences. I try to buy cars that are inherently reliable and avoid the dealer like the plague. If I can fix it myself, even if it’s under warranty, I do and this way I know it’s done correctly. Not by a negligent monkey who doesn’t give a Shamoo. I’ve got a Honda and a Mazda. Both made it out of warranty without issue.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I had my first seamless dealership experience last weekend. Whilst rotating my tires I broke the locking lug nut key ( again. thanks, mcgard ) and didn’t want to waste three sockets getting the remaining lockers off. I called up the local GM dealer and they said, “Bring it in now. We’ll do it free of charge.” They were as good as their word.

    Of course, this is the same dealer I was loathe to revisit after it disavowed all responsibility for my wife’s recently paid-off Equinox blowing its oil out the timing side after the timing slipped and the piston met a valve.

    CDN$34,000 down the drain but I got free locking lug nut removal. She has a 2003 4Runner now with the 4.0L V6. Best car in the fleet.

    Never again, GM. Never.

  • avatar
    okcgerry

    Audi guy here who has relocated cities. I’ve noticed GLARING differences between dealers in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and New Orleans. All three cities have one dealer only so…. But Audi of Tulsa has by far the best service department. I think the brand sets the minimum requirements and from there it’s up to the individual dealerships.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The system is flawed, except for the dealer. Consumers put themselves in a prone, less than advantageous position.

      Always assume they’re criminals until proven otherwise. But even then, they may not have been able to screw you, but the next guy or girl, they will.

  • avatar
    okcgerry

    Audi guy here who has relocated cities. I’ve noticed GLARING differences between dealers in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and New Orleans. All three cities have one dealer only so…. But Audi of Tulsa has by far the best service department. I think the brand sets the minimum requirements and from there it’s up to the individual dealerships.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Corey, you write for an auto website. I’m 100% certain you were aware of all the reports of lousy service from VW dealers, and you bought one anyhow. I don’t feel sorry for you.

  • avatar

    I think so much of this comes down to the dealer, not the brand. My Benz shop gives me a nice loaner…the car itself has been decent. The guys there like the way my C43 is optioned, and always give me a loaner equal, I’ve driven most of the fleet, save G wagon and S class. They laughed but gave me a GLA when I asked…it isn’t worthy of a star. My experiences with BMW at two dealers were good. My Jetta hasn’t needed much intervention…I’m doing a brake upgrade to GTi brakes with my millenial son who, yes, can drive manual….the local Acura dealer can be buggered with a cactus…they are horrid, but luckily there is another one, owned by a different dealer group not too far, that has only provided good experiences.

    The bad Acura shop is funny…on the General Manager’s door is a big sign saying “No one allowed alone-insurance regulations”..I’ve never seen this before, I guess I’m not the first unhappy customer. They wanted to charge me for a recalled torque converter, and after I showed them the recall notice, they forgot a gasket between tranny and transfer case….the fun never ended.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I agree – service quality can vary wildly between dealerships.

      I think the biggest issue here is that these guys are clearly knuckleheads who didn’t fix the problem the first time, and damaged the car when they finally fixed it.

      Still, I’m wondering what really prompted him to get rid of the car. “I dumped it because the dealer sucked” seems unlikely. My money’s on the sunroof fix itself failing.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    The dealer we purchased our Avenger V6 at had good service for both oil changes and any warranty issues. Oil changes were free the first 3 years, we don’t go there for paid oil changes. They did give us a Pacifica minivan for warranty work on the paint as it had a couple bubbles under the hood coming from underneath the paint, not from rock chips as they originally tried to pass them off as being from. The owner retired and sold to another chain and we haven’t been back since. Prices were way up on everything from service to the vehicles. We had to drive a bit, but saved $5k on our minivan and got a Pacifica Limited for the price of the new dealership owners Pacifica Touring, not even a Touring +.

    The local Nissan dealer sent a letter with a free oil change as they just “changed the culture” at the service department and in the past couple dealings with them left a bad taste in our mouth. My wife took the Nissan in (it was given to us, we didn’t buy it there) and they were very polite, professional and she asked about the cabin air filter and they showed it to her and it was in good shape yet. They rotated the tires for free as well, even though it wasn’t on the gift certificate.

    I guess some dealerships want to change. Some even for the better.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Why I take my 21-year old Lexus to the dealer, they treat me like I just bought a new LS. I took my car in to get the snow tires switched, $80 and I got a nice new GS to drive all day, got a breakfast voucher for the hotel next door and they washed the outside and wiped down the interior of my car.

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