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Volkswagen admits 17,000 complaints about Dieselgate fix fails

According to VW boss, that's a great result!

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Volkswagen UK’s managing director, Paul Willis, has been forced to admit that the company has received nearly 17,000 complaints from customers whose vehicles have suffered after receiving the company’s so-called “fix” for its emissions-cheating Dieselgate models.

Willis appears to think that 17,000 recorded complaints from UK customers represents a complete success, noting in a letter to Chair of the Transport Committee that in his and Volkswagen’s opinion, that “no systemic issue in respect of impaired performance has been identified”.

Meanwhile, reports of “fixed” Volkswagens, Audis, Škodas and SEATs breaking down or going into limp mode – in some cases only a few miles after having the repair work conducted by a dealership – continue to rack up.

Complaints include noticeably worsened fuel economy, broken exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valves and clogged diesel particulate filters (DPFs), despite Volkswagen’s official position that “the technical measure has no adverse impact on fuel consumption figures, CO2 emissions figures, engine output, torque, noise emissions, or durability of the engine and its components”.

Volkswagen dieselgate attitude
A summary of Volkswagen’s attitude towards its affected UK customers

Willis’ letter was in response to a request from the Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, in which she requested an update from Volkswagen on a number of issues, starting with confirmation that Volkswagen still had no intention of compensating UK drivers for its emissions cheating.

Ms Greenwood also questioned Volkswagen’s progress in applying its fix, which the company had promised to complete by autumn 2017, and asked about the many complaints her committee had received about the negative impacts of Volkswagen’s fix.

She also asked how many customers have received compensation for problems arising from the fix, and what measures Volkswagen was taking in the UK to reduce NOx as it is doing in Germany.

Willis confirmed that Volkswagen has no intention of compensating customers in Europe, which is no great surprise although still disappointing for the 1.2 million UK customers who bought an affected Volkswagen Group vehicle. More than 40,000 UK owners have joined a class action lawsuit against Volkswagen over the Dieselgate scandal, so this may result in the company having to pay out something to owners eventually.

Willis argued that Volkswagen had made excellent progress on its fixing of customers cars, because they have completed about 75% of the job in the time he promised. Clearly, Willis is eyeing up a future career as a painter and decorator, as they never seem to get their jobs finished on time, either.

To be fair, a large number of clued-up owners have explicitly rejected the company’s offer to “fix” their vehicles, so it will be impossible for Volkswagen to ever complete the task as promised. Many others are angry because they feel they were duped into believing the recall work was compulsory, when they would have refused it if they realised they had a choice.

Owners refuse to accept Volkswagen’s excuses

The Volkswagen Diesel Consumer Forum, which now comprises more than 6,600 angry Volkswagen/Audi/SEAT/Skoda owners and still growing, claims that Volkswagen has never disclosed exactly what the “fix” entails. Forum founder Gareth Pritchard said, “So far, 820,000 cars have had the emissions software update in the UK. Yet not one owner has had it explained to them what the fix does to our cars. It’s very easy in those circumstances for VW to deny there is an issue when it won’t tell us what has been changed or how our cars should be operating.”

Willis refused to disclose how many customers have received compensation for failures resulting from the fix, claiming that it was “competitively sensitive information”.  He did not elaborate on who such “competitors” would be that could benefit from knowing how many customers Volkswagen had compensated for its own failings.

He also made a rather ambiguous statement that seemed to suggest that 75% of customers who had sought reimbursement have had their claims approved, although it could easily be interpreted that only 75% of those who were actually approved (rather than all applications) have actually been approved for payment. It was a very wordy phrasing, which seemed designed to obfuscate rather than illuminate…

In his letter to the Transport Committee, Willis claimed that “the vast majority of customers have been satisfied with the technical measures”, although he did not provide any evidence to back this up. He went on to boast about his company’s scrappage scheme, which offers customers between £1,800 and £6,000 on certain part-exchange vehicles – the catch, of course, being that they have to buy a new Volkswagen Group vehicle, and only selected models are included in the offer.

Finally, Willis explained that Volkswagen would be offering “widespread voluntary software updates” on certain Euro 5 diesel models, including cars that have already received the dieselgate “fix”. No doubt, many owners will be far more reluctant to let Volkswagen meddle with their cars’ software next time around after their experiences last time.

Meanwhile, in America…

Oliver Schmidt, Volkswagen
Oliver Schmidt may need a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth.

A second Volkswagen executive has been jailed over his role in the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal. Oliver Schmidt led Volkswagen USA’s environmental and engineering office in Michigan, and learned of the cheating scheme in 2015, according to court documents as reported by the BBC. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and violating the Clean Air Act in August, and will spend the next seven years in prison – as well as being hit with a US$400,000 fine.

Volkswagen has been fined more than US$15 billion over its emissions cheating in the USA, but has so far got off scot-free in the UK and Europe thanks to regulations that are worded slightly differently.

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, despite the company’s protestations. 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. If your car develops any engine or exhaust problems and you have not had the “fix” done, you are less likely to be offered any support from the Volkswagen Group for repairs, or a dealer may go ahead and apply the fix without your knowledge – and the company says it can’t be undone afterwards (although aftermarket specialists are doing good business out of ‘rolling back’ the fix for affected customers).

If you are considering buying a used diesel Volkswagen Audi, SEAT or Skoda, you should absolutely check whether it’s on the recall list and find out whether it has had the work done.

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.

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Stuart Masson
Stuart Massonhttps://www.thecarexpert.co.uk/
Stuart is the Editorial Director of our suite of sites: The Car Expert, The Van Expert and The Truck Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the automotive 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.