The cautionary tale of how one small part has caused so much pain to so many people.
By now, those in the Volksphere would probably have heard of that Volkswagen recall.
After nearly 10 years of saying everything is fine with their legendarily ‘reliable’ DSG units, touting that there is nothing wrong with their DQ200 7-speed dry clutch DSG gearbox, VW is finally admitting that there is indeed some fault with the mechatronic unit in the transmission.
A fact which, considering the number of units owners nationwide have changed, and with the word ‘mechatronic’ inducing cold sweats in any VW owner, comes as no surprise to anyone.
Credit where it is due though to VW for finally owning up to the problem. Albeit only after seven years after contending with countless news reports, not to mention owners complaints about failing DSG transmissions. With the only appeasement to these torrents of complaints being a two-year extended goodwill warranty on said gearboxes to all owners.
To those still blissfully unaware of this news event, the gist of the recall, or voluntary service campaign as VW puts it, concerns a production defect of the hydraulic pressure accumulator, which using simple English to explain, causes the mechatronic to go kaput.
And when the mechatronic goes kaput, owners are left with a very dead VW and a very big bill. A painfully common occurrence that affects a significant number of VW owners over these many years.
PSA: To those who only found out about this now and do own a VW possibly affected by this recall, please click here to check if your VW is affected.
From reading the press release and hearing from quick acting owners who called to get this done ASAP, it seems that the only part changed during this ‘voluntary recall campaign’ were the hydraulic actuator inside the mechatronic not the entire mechatronic unit.
And, from the FAQ, it states that there is a two years warranty on the part that was replaced.
Reading between the lines, it also means that it is only this part, the hydraulic pressure accumulator, is covered under the two year warranty.
Further reading between the lines leads to the reasonable inference that if any other part within the mechatronic is broken when they open it up to fix the accumulator, it comes out from the owners pocket.
And by this definition, if any other part within the mechatronic fails after this recall, and turns your Euromobile into a very heavy paperweight, tough luck.
As for the recall process itself, any reasonable person would expect that a recall of nearly 13,000 cars won’t go down without a hitch, especially since the oldest cars on the list are at least nine years old. Some might not even belong to the same owner who drove it off the showroom floor all that time ago.
However, the whole process is shambolic to an incompetent degree. Glossing over the fact that the VIN number database for the recall was only updated two hours after the press release was given, because before then it just said incorrect vin even if you keyed in the correct VIN number 5 times. Even after two days since the recall notice was issued, there a few people in the owners club that are getting conflicting information on whether their VWs are affected from the site, with one day saying that there VW is not affected, then another day saying that it is.
A small minority of owners are even getting conflicting information from their service centre and the site database.
If however, you one of the lucky/quick thinking few know definitively that your VW is affected, it is now that the real headache begins. Because now you’re dealing with the VW aftersales network.
First things first, based on VWs own official advice, owners affected by the recall would have to make an appointment with one of their authorised service centres.
However, this recall is actually analogous to the coronavirus pandemic we are all experiencing: large number of cases with not many hospitals, or in the case of this recall, not enough workshops and/or technicians.
If your VW is affected by this recall and you haven’t made an appointment, good luck getting a slot before early next year. Based on the inputs of many owners, service centres nationwide are experiencing massive backlogs. The most egregious one was the service center in Gombak telling owners the only free slot available is in January 2021.
For those quick at math, that is 6 months from now, and other service centres are showing similar wait times. So, it is going to be another 6 months of driving around with a ticking time bomb of a gearbox.
Saying that, this situation is somewhat understandable as it is undeniably a tough task managing the fix of 12,732 vehicles. Especially if some of these vehicles have gone through second, third or even forth hand ownership and not seen the VW service centre once the warranty has expired. It also doesn’t help that many of the service centres have folded in the last couple of years.
There is also some blame to be placed on owners, whereby the general advice from forums was to just walk in to get the job done, instead of waiting for an appointment. Thus rendering the whole form that owners were asked to fill in on the attached email pointless.
But before feeling too sorry for VW, let’s recap the fact dealing with the VW aftersales network is such a headache, and why most owners avoid it like the plague.
Some outsiders may wonder what why owners are fretting about going for this recall. It is not because of the inconvenience or the financial cost, since VW is bearing all costs of the recall. But it is mainly because of the absolute customer service disaster that VW have at most of its service centres.
Yes, I’m looking at you VW Glenmarie.
The FAQ says the recall fix will take around six hours. Realistically though, owners are reporting that it takes about 1.5 days to have this problem fixed. This is somewhat understandable as due to the influx of cars in for repair, it might take longer.
And that is 1.5 days without a courtesy car I might add. Although VW claims the availability of a courtesy car depends on the service centre, there have been no reports of owners thus far receiving one.
To add to the gall, on the FAQ page there is a specific Q&A stating emphatically and indisputably that there will be NO compensation for those who had to suffer through one (or maybe more) mechatronic replacements.
Great way to build up customer loyalty, VW!
A point to note, it is an undisputed fact that there are indeed some VW owners feel entitled and demand to be waited hand and foot, just because they bought a car from a ‘premium’ brand. There are people like that, but then again the vast majority of VW owners just expect decent customer service like what other cheaper marques have been managing with all along.
Although no owners thus far have openly complained about the customer service attributed to this recall. The number of vehicles, and the preceding poor reputation, not to mention the influx of customers who have experienced better service from independent specialists outside may be the straw that breaks the camels back for the Volkswagen aftersales department.
Owners are already telling each other how to deal with the inevitable poor customer service experience, which is to use the normal procedure for most owners to process even a mildly contested claim is by banging the table, kicking up a fuss and writing to VW Malaysia HQ.
Let that sink in for a moment, for this to be the normal way of dealing with the service department, there must be something inherently wrong with the system.
In addition to this, with the vague press release and equally vague FAQ, concerned owners are now relying on the owners club and hear say stories from technicians to find out what is really going on.
All in all, communication between VW, its service centres and its owners have been a shambles. Par of the course really for many years already, but this large scale recall has brought this problem to the forefront.
And even then, there are still a lot of unresolved questions to this recall like:
1. What if the entire mechatronic is faulty when I go for the recall?
This applies specifically to cars that have exceeded the good will warranty. Some owners are reporting that the service centres are actively trying to stay away from cars that come in with leaking mechatronics, even if they are covered under goodwill. So what about those which aren’t?
2. What about those who changed their mechatronic units outside?
This conundrum is also faced by a lot of VW owners with models affected. Sure, in your FAQ it states that cars serviced outside will still be eligible for the recall, but what if the entire mechatronic unit was replaced with a reconditioned unit. Because at that time (and even now) to go back to VW to fix this fault would have cost an arm and a leg, and then some.
3. What about those who modded their DSG gearboxes?
Transmission Control Unit (TCU) upgrades are a common upgrade for people wanting to mess around with their VWs. Although some do it for performance, some also do it for to improve drivability. So will this recall cover the people who have modded their transmissions?
4. What about the cars unaffected by this recall campaign but have experienced/will experience mechatronic issues?
And to the lucky few who already went through the recall campaign, sorry to be the devil reminding you this, but is this really a permanent fix to cure all future mechatronic related issues, or is this just a band aid on a flawed design?
5. Lastly, here’s a curveball: What about the TSI engines, are they also going to be up for a recall any time soon?
Don’t tell me that the piston crack issues that caused several owners to completely overhaul their destroyed engines at relatively low milages have completely missed you by.
And this is even before bringing up the speed sensor issues, the gear bush issue (on the Polo MPI) and the clutch reliability on the same gearbox you just issued a recall for.
Speaking as a VW owner here, with the aforementioned DSG gearbox, I wholeheartedly admit that I do love the gearbox. The boosted TSI engine and the blip-shifting DSG gearbox is what makes me want to drive my car every day. But every time I drive my little pocket rocket, the gearbox worries is always at the back of my mind.
Luckily this time I am not affected by this recall, but every gearshift performed by the transmission always leads to a niggling doubt in my mind on whether this will be that shift that breaks the mechatronic.
And honestly, that feeling is not what owners should have to contend with. Especially not in a modern car and from a supposed premium marque like VW. What happened to the fabled German reliability?
It is frankly astounding that this recall was only issued now, considering that this has nearly been a decade long problem that has since tanked the local reputation of this quick shifting gearbox.
I await your response, Volkswagen.