Volkswagen blaming customers for failing to fix Dieselgate cars

Surely this is a new low point for Volkswagen's handling of Dieselgate scandal?

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vwfixfail montage

The UK House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee has demanded answers from Volkswagen, with new data revealing that the company has not fixed a third of its emissions-cheating Dieselgate cars, despite a pledge to the British government to have done so by now.

Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, has written to the Department for Transport to express the Committee’s concerns around the lack of progress of applying fixes to cars equipped with ‘defeat devices’. Nearly 1.2 million Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT and Skoda models were sold in the UK with the cheat software. So far, just over 800,000 have been “fixed” and just under 400,000 remain “unfixed”. Additionally, the rate of work being carried out has dropped right off, with only a small number of cars having the emissions fix carried out each month compared to earlier this year.

A representative of the Department for Transport said: “The UK government continues to take the unacceptable actions of Volkswagen extremely seriously and is working hard on behalf of UK consumers.”

Volkswagen dieselgate fail

The Times, 9 November 2017. Image (c) Schrödinger’s Golf

Volkswagen sinks to a new low by trying to blame customers

Part of the problem is that the recall issued for the 1.2 million cars was voluntary and issued by Volkswagen UK, rather than a compulsory recall ordered by the government. Compulsory recalls are only issued in the UK for safety matters. Volkswagen has tried to blame customers for not bringing their cars in to have the recall work done, in the company’s latest attempt to shirk blame for the Dieselgate scandal.  A Volkswagen spokesperson told The Times: “The service action remains voluntary and we are aware that some customers have actively declined the implementation of the technical measures.”

Thousands of owners have indeed refused to bring their cars to have the recall work done, due to allegations that the solutions applied by Volkswagen have caused damage to “fixed” vehicles, in addition to affecting fuel economy and performance. Volkswagen has denied this, as it has done with virtually every aspect of the Dieselgate scandal, but there has been a growing number of deeply dissatisfied owners taking the company to task over its handling of the repairs.

The initial correspondence from Volkswagen to its customers strongly implied that the recall was compulsory, and prominently featured the government Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) logo on letters to owners of affected vehicles. There have been numerous complaints from owners who believed that they were legally obliged to have the emissions recall work done as a result of this correspondence.

The Volkswagen Diesel Customer Forum (Emissions Scandal) group on Facebook, now comprising more than 6,500 members, has reported many occurrences of cars suffering from performance and/or economy and/or reliability problems after dealers have carried out the emissions recall work. The group has been pushing the hashtag #vwfixfail aggressively in social media and has been campaigning against Volkswagen’s behaviour throughout the Dieselgate scandal.

The BBC’s Watchdog programme also investigated complaints about “fixed” Volkswagens suddenly going into ‘limp-home’ mode, which was alleged to have caused an accident when a “fixed” car rapidly decelerated from 70mph on a motorway. The programme also reported on many owners who have suffered breakdowns, reduced performance and increased fuel consumption after the recall work was done.

As usual, Volkswagen denies everything. It refuses to accept allegations that the recall work, which they describe as a “technical measure”, causes any problems. The company even claims that the fix will not affect performance or economy, which begs the questions as to why the cars were not sold in this state in the first place and why there was a need to cheat the system at all. But then again, this is the same company that denied it had even been cheating at all and refuses to compensate owners for its own failures, so its claims can hardly be considered to be trustworthy.

Autocar magazine ran a pre- and post-fix test of a Volkswagen Touran that showed that the fix did have a negative impact on fuel economy. Obviously, Volkswagen denied the test’s legitimacy and continued to insist that its magic fix has no undesirable side effects.

An Austrian consumer group found that 43% of owners of “fixed” cars reported increased fuel use, reduced acceleration and considerable jerkiness to the engine’s power delivery. There have been many reports of increased diesel particulate filter (DPF) problems, as the filter is having to work much harder to catch and burn off more soot than before.

Campaigners at Volkswagen UK headquarters. Image (c) Schrödinger’s Golf

Volkswagen, it’s time to clean up your act

Volkswagen’s handling of the whole Dieselgate scandal has been disgraceful from the very start, and continues to fall short of any form of decency. The company has treated its customers and the British public like idiots, and expects us all to accept its repeated lying, denials and lack of contrition. Its latest pathetic attempt to blame customers for its failure to deliver on its pledge is simply the latest act of a company that believes it is above the law.

In a breathtaking display of arrogance and hypocrisy, Volkswagen UK managing director, Paul Willis, told a UK Transport Select Committee in February that Volkswagen had done nothing wrong and the recall of 1.2 million vehicles was done simply to put customers’ minds at rest. Willis argued that no-one had been misled because cars were not sold on the basis of NOx levels in the UK. Of course, this fails to address why Volkswagen bothers to ensure its other vehicles all comply, and why only certain models that were fitted with the cheat software to comply with a test that they did not need to comply with…

In the US, Volkswagen has been hit with billions of dollars in fines for its cheating. However, in virtually every other part of the world it has got off scot-free. This is not because the US is tougher on emissions or cheating, but rather due to the wording of the relevant legislation in America.

Essentially, manufacturers in the USA are required to formally identify any systems that control a car’s emissions systems to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Volkswagen obviously failed to declare its carefully-hidden ‘defeat device’. So it wasn’t fined for emissions breaches, it was fined for failing to report the secret device. Other countries don’t have an equivalent clause and so have been unable to penalise Volkswagen.

Sales staff from UK Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT and Skoda dealers have reported dissatisfaction and despondency to The Car Expert (in confidence) about having to carry the can for Volkswagen’s behaviour and face thousands of angry owners. Now I don’t usually expect customers to feel sorry for car salespeople, but as a former Volkswagen and Audi sales executive myself, I can sympathise. I am angry that I sold hundreds of cars to innocent customers over several years that were fitted with these cheating devices. Like others, I was happily sharing Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” mantra with no idea that the company was cynically manipulating its vehicles to cheat emissions tests.

Interestingly, although the emissions work definitely and absolutely doesn’t cause any cars to break in any way at all, Volkswagen has been quietly compensating some owners who have suffered mechanical maladies post-fix. Volkswagen’s bullshit department describes this as a “trust-building measure” because it is generously paying for repairs to fuel and exhaust systems, even though the damage was totally unrelated to the recall work that affected the fuel and exhaust systems. Promise.

Audi with #vwfixfail sticker

Image (c) Schrödinger’s Golf

The Car Expert recommendation: Don’t buy a “fixed” vehicle

Should you buy a used diesel Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT or Skoda that has been “fixed”? No. There are far too many reports of breakdowns, poor performance and poor fuel economy for it to be a safe bet. There are literally thousands of other vehicles for sale that are less risky places to put your money.

Should you buy a used diesel Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT or Skoda that has not been “fixed” but is on the list? Probably not. The company continues to pester owners who have bluntly refused to have the fix applied, but it is entirely possible that the government may eventually step in and force cars to have the recall work done. The fix may become an MOT requirement, or it may find some other method to enforce the work. As previously mentioned, compulsory recalls are only issued for safety matters in the UK, so that would have to be changed if a compulsory recall was to be issued.

If you own one of these vehicles, whether fixed or unfixed, you have every right to be angry. The Dieselgate scandal has made people wary of buying a used car on the cheat list, regardless of our recommendation above. You will get no apology from Volkswagen, despite the company screwing you over. If you want to sell your car privately or part-exchange it on a non-VW Group vehicle, your car’s value is likely to suffer.

If you part-exchange it for another Volkswagen/Audi/SEAT/Skoda, you may be eligible for a boost to your part-exchange value (called something insipid like a “customer loyalty bonus”), but the downside is you have to buy a new car from the same company that has just screwed you.

Have you been affected by the Volkswagen dieselgate technical measures? Do you work in a dealership and have to deal with the fallout from this whole saga? Has your car been “fixed” and working just fine? Tell us your story in the comments below.

Stuart Masson

Stuart is the Editor of The Car Expert, which he founded in 2011, and our new sister site The Van Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the car industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

8 Comments

  1. So how do you ensure that owners who have been given a recall notice get the work done (regardless of whether it causes more issues than it cures)? Threaten them with legal action and criminalise them? Threaten them with violence? It strikes me that VAG can’t do right for doing wrong, and aggressive, one-sided journalism like this isn’t helping. You’re also conveniently overlooking the fact that EVERY Euro5 and Euro6 vehicle sold in the UK conformed to the standard when it was tested – so this means that either a) the tests are not adequate enough, or b) there was some brown-envelope work going on. The fact of the matter is that the tests to establish the Euro standards and to check against them are carried out in the laboratory, not in real-world driving conditions. Research conducted recently on behalf of the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/how_toxic_is_your_car_exhaust) showed that in actual fact only a tiny fraction of Euro 6 vehicles conform to the standard in everyday use – the worst offender was Nissan’s Qashqai which was spewing out nearly 18 times the 0,08g of NOx/k under normal driving conditions, yet in a lab it passes Euro 6. It’s all very well to point the finger at VAG and tut piously, but the real story here is that VAG were sloppy and got caught out. It’s only a matter of time before it comes out that every other manufacturer is on the fiddle as well. Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.

    Reply
    • Stuart Masson

      Hi John. Every manufacturer builds cars that are optimised to perform well in lab testing – often at the expense of real-world performance and economy. They all game the system, and the lab testing regime is a poor representation of real-world driving. The Qashqai is only one example and almost every car on sale would behave in a similar fashion.
      However, the difference between Volkswagen and every other manufacturer is that only Volkswagen has been proven to have specifically built cars that were designed to cheat the system. So when it recognised that it was in a lab situation (which follows a very strict protocol and is therefore easy enough to detect), the car would engage its default “lab settings” to ensure good emissions results. But when the car recognised that it was not in a lab environment, it would override the default software with secret and hidden software to provide better economy and performance at the expense of emissions.
      So on one hand you have people saying that the tests are too easy, yet on the other hand you have Volkswagen cheating the tests because they can’t design the engine well enough to pass the test. How would it perform without the cheat software in a much tougher testing programme?
      Volkswagen refuses to acknowledge the many thousands of customers who have complained of engine damage after the fix. There are many online groups and there has been well-documented coverage to show that the fix has undesirable side effects, and that Volkswagen’s claims that performance and economy are unaffected are completely false. Complaining that customers won’t bring their cars in when there are so many complaints about the effects of the fix is a joke. It’s Volkswagen who is in the wrong here, not me and not the customers who bought their cars in good faith.
      And if any other manufacturer is found to be cheating in a similar manner, and goes on to behave in a similarly disgraceful manner, then I will be sure to call them out on it in a similar manner.

  2. There is a simple way to ensure customers get the recall work done and it is within VW’s power if they choose. This would be by VW providing a fit for purpose solution. It would likely involve a hardware fix. VW don’t want to pay for a fit for purpose fix but it is their responsibility and they won’t do it unless forced to. I would have had the fix if they offered one that didn’t have the associated risks. Knowing the risks, only a fool would have the fix applied.

    This article is one of the most honest and complete that I have seen so far – telling the true customer experience story.

    Reply
  3. I had the fix done to my car in June 2016, it instantly caused problems and the car was terrible to drive, I had to put more fuel in, it was noisier and the dpf filter seemed to be endlessly regenerating. I pestered VW to reverse the recall almost from the end of the week that it was done, but they said it was NOT POSSIBLE. The dealer had the car back 7 times inside of 9 months for “investigation work” which did nothing and the fix software was reloaded at least 5 times.

    After 12 months I was contacted by email by the service manager from the dealer (now EX-VW employee) he had taken his contacts list with him when he left the company. He offered to rollback the software if I was still having problems. As I had just had the third EGR valve replaced I went to see what he had to offer. His setup mirrored a VAG workshop he had all of the VAG tools and diagnostic software. He booked me in for the rollback in June of this year. But before he did he put emissions test equipment onto my car and told me to go drive for a half hour. I did this and then returned, he did the rollback and then I was sent out to drive again for a half hour. When I was back he compared the NOx, CO2 and CO readings. I was gobsmacked. Before the rollback procedure, the emissions were a LOT higher CO2 was 41% higher than the result from after the rollback.

    That was 4 months ago and I can say it has been like having a new car again after 12 months of suffering. I would recommend a rollback to anyone.

    Reply
    • Where can I get mine rolled back. Had my car done in April this year and ever since that the fuel consumption has increased by a third. The car has been back to the dealer 4 times for diagnostic test and they say they can’t did anything wrong. I kept insisting the car isn’t running right and they ended up picking my car up from my work place and driving it for the day. After that they said they need to keep the car for a couple days to try and see what is causing the problem. So they gave me a courtsery car. Few days later they claimed the car has been fixed. They said they replace the manifold intake and the # 2 glow plug. According to them this has fixed the problem. I was adviced that the car will take a few weeks to settle down and I shouldn’t see any issues with the fuel consumption. I’m a week into the last fix. I’ve drove 142 miles but I’ve consumed 180 miles of fuel. I want my car rolled back.

  4. Beautiful article, thank you Stuart. Says it how it is. An accurate description of the facts. A nice response to John Ellison who has not got an appreciation of the problems it has caused and has missed the issue here.

    Reply
  5. Not fixing my golf 2010 1.6 TDI, they go through egr and other parts on a loop after the ‘fix’ lifetime guarantee on fixed and related parts or no go.

    Reply
  6. Thank-you for telling it as it is Stuart. I have owned VAG vehicles for 20 years. Have been a staunch supporter of the mark. But no longer. I run a top of the range Audi A4 quattro and have had the fixed applied. Immediate drop in fuel economy. I requested the software be rolled back without success. Like Stuart I do have an element of sympathy with the dealers who are following the company line and roll their eyes every time you speak to them. The service I have received from Milton Keynes is nothing short of terrible and outright dis-honest. Pre-written scripts posted into replies, glossing over the facts, total denial and no offer to take the car back in to check despite a letter to the contrary from their MD. They promise to reply within days and take weeks. Then they reply with platitudes suggesting that it is me that is at fault. Need I go on? VAG had an opportunity to turn a bad situation into a PR master class via good customer service. They have totally failed. Trust; that essential watchword for all things VAG is now consigned to the scrap yard. Spend less on your glossy adverts VAG and invest in your number one brand value. Treat your customers with dignity and respect and they will pay a premium to own one of your vehicles. Until then do the right thing VAG and roll back the software update please.

    Reply

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