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The VW Service Advisor's Report
Like A Forrest Gump Box Of Chocolates, You Never Know What You're Going To Get

I have two cars sitting here right now because, to some degree, the technicians did not test drive the car after repairs were made (3.7.2008). A third car never made it out of the parking lot last night, though it was repaired early 3.8.2008 (Saturday).

1. (customer 1) 2004 Touareg (tech 1) - (customer 1) brought her Touareg to us because the car's brake pad light was on, as well as for an oil change and a few other minor things. (tech 1) replaced brake pads, rotors and sensors on all four corners. He then went about putting his tools away, leaving the car on the hoist. As I was pulling the car out for the customer (who had already arrived), the brake pad light came back on.

(tech 1) said he would leave the car for (tech 2) to look at Saturday. I pushed (tech 1) and he reluctantly agreed to take a quick look, adding that instead maybe he ([tech 1]) would be in on Saturday to fix the problem. When the problem was not immediately found, (tech 1) once again opted to leave it for (tech 2). The Touareg will be here until Tuesday when (tech 1) returns. A test drive by (tech 1) after the repair but before putting his tools away would have revealed the brake pad light and left enough time for more diagnosis and possibly even a repair.

2. (customer 2) 2001 Passat (tech 3) - (customer 2)'s car came in for brakes (all four corners) and what turned out to be an ECT sensor (replaced under extended warranty). Saturday morning I received a phone call from (customer 2) stating five minutes from the dealership the heater stopped producing heat and the engine overheated. If I had to guess, I would say the ECT sensor was not seated correctly and/or there is an air bubble in the cooling system. Had (tech 3) test-driven the car beyond the car wash, there is a good chance the overheating problem would have been discovered before the customer picked up his car.

3. (customer 3) 2006 Beetle Convertible (tech 2) - The car was booked in for a heater issue (TSB on coolant bottle), headlight bulb, and oil change, plus the alarm indicator light on the passenger door. The passenger door was repaired at the last visit and the light had not worked since. When the customer came to pick up her car, the driver's side window would not drop and raise appropriate to the door opening and closing; the window would get stuck outside the top when the door was closed. While (customer 3)'s Beetle's window issue was not related to the repairs we made that day, I believe this would have been observed had (tech 2) test-driven the car post-repair. (customer 3) is remarkably good-natured, and (tech 2) repaired the Beetle Saturday morning.

These are three examples of why technicians should really test drive the cars they work on post-repair. I believe they are supposed to drive the car for five miles after all repairs save perhaps headlight bulbs and oil changes. Perhaps this is a policy that can be enforced, lessening the chances for comebacks and general customer unhappiness.

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> On February 11, 2008, at 11:10 AM, Graham wrote:
> Since you now work at a VW dealer and are well aware of VW's
> strengths and weaknesses...
> A friend of mine has a 2001 Cabrio. Needs to get a tire replaced. Who
> has the wheel lock key? _Nobody_. (dealer name) Volkswagen first insists
> they aren't factory wheels (they are, have the VW right on the center
> like they all do) and then doesn't have a wheel key at either of
> their two Atlanta dealerships. "We don't keep anything that old."
> Gave her a 1-800 number to call to order the part. They didn't even
> offer to order the part for her and have it in, say, 3-5 days.
> (dealer name) has had a horrible service reputation since the beginning
> of time yet they continue to exist and sell cars. The only dealer
> service my Golf has ever seen was from (other dealer name) VW, which is
> an hour from my house, and at which I've always had a great
> experience. And it seems like making it a great experience doesn't
> require that much extra effort.
> Graham

On February 12, 2008, at 8:21 PM, vwservice wrote:

I may be biased because we're the largest dealer in the midwest and have been around for 40 years, but it's a damn wheel lock key. 2001 wasn't that long ago, and the last time I checked, cars in ATL don't dissolve in three years.

The problem is usually figuring out which lock the customer has. Problem may be a strong term; figuring it out requires the customer to roll into the service drive and then either a service advisor or one of the lube techs or even one of the parts guys can match the key. We may have to order it. Or, we can remove the locks and install regular lugs. If this doesn't sound too difficult... well, it's not.

Aftermarket locks are something else. We have some keys that we've accumulated over the years, but of course that's no guarantee.

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The other day we had a 2007 Passat 4Motion wagon with about 14k miles come in for service. The customer complained of a raw fuel smell and a check engine light. The check engine light isn't so uncommon, but the fuel smell was interesting.

It turns out, someone had installed an aftermarket stereo amp (driving the stock rear speakers) in the tailgate area, and screwed it into the floor of the car.

Which is directly over the gas tank.

Which caused a couple big ol' holes in the gas tank and the check engine light to come on because the tank pressurization system went nuts.

Which is not covered under warranty and costs $2200.00 to replace, partly because you have to drop the exhaust and rear suspension out to remove the fuel tank.

Us - "Hey, this is Justin at VW. Say, we really like your amplifier. Who did the install?"
Customer - "I did!"
Us - "Oooh, wrong answer."
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I could have sworn a new Passat CC rolled into the parking lot yesterday. I only caught a glimpse, but it really looked like the smoother, lower Passat variant. The CC is sort of a tapered combination of a Passat and the infamous Phaeton. I thought a CC's appearance in our lot would be odd since the car was only recently unveiled at various auto shows like Chicago and Detroilet. I walked around the building to get a better look. Turns out, it wasn't a Passat CC but a brand-new Honda Accord. Hey, I said it was only a glimpse.

One of our hotshot salesman, David, sent an email link to everyone at our dealership announcing the new VW Routan. Now, I'm neither a product engineer nor a marketing super-genius, but I fail to see how adding a Chrysler product to our lineup will bump our already stellar reputation as a Honda-level manufacturer. Speaking of Honda (again), the damn Routan, Chrysler, whatever looks like a Honda Odyssey!
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>>> On January 18, 2008, at 11:49 AM, Reed wrote:
>>> I had a VW Jetta made in Mexico, and it started falling apart the
>>> day after I brought it home. Literally. I also had 2 Pontiacs that
>>> were partially made in Mexico, but I don't think you'd have known
>>> the difference...

> On January 18, 2008, at 11:58 AM, Graham wrote:
> My family's recent VW history:
> 1988 Jetta - Westmorland PA plant.
> Not unreliable, but by 140k and age 10 had gotten to a point where it
> required a fair amount of work, sold to two grad students who had
> never driven a car in their lives.
> 1998 Golf GL - mine - basically solid. Bought used, formerly a VWoA
> corporate fleet car. Power lock pump, cylinder head oil sensor,
> coolant flange on head, all failed. Had to go through a fit of engine
> rubber renewal about a year ago, vacuum lines, valve cover gasket,
> pan gasket. Starter also failed after making noise for 5 years. The
> one glaring thing on it that shouldn't have happened was the
> transmission failure, 5 speed stick, at 80k miles. That's just not
> right. That was expensive. My daily driver.
> 1998 Golf GL - moms, bought new - alarm failure, and the common
> coolant leak at a flange on the side of the cylinder head. Door trim
> unglued. Otherwise was a fantastic car until rear ended by a truck last year.
> 2003 Golf GLX 2.0 - moms, bought last year used without benefit of my
> advice, no problems yet...
> A friend of mine bought an '01 Cabrio last year, and I told her it
> would probably fall to pieces, and it has fallen to pieces.
> I'm reasonably sure VW's build quality issues are not related to the
> plant. It can come from Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Hungary... and you
> have the US built models in the 80s, and it's a crap shoot as to
> whether it will fall to pieces or not.

On January 18, 2008, at 12:23 AM, vwservice wrote:

I don't think it matters where a car is built these days.

BMW's build quality out of SC is/was better than their cars coming out of Germany. Mercedes' Alabama-built cars, specifically the ML, were and maybe still are crap. My Matrix XRS, built in Canada on a joint-GM line, has reliability like a Toyota and at 60k miles rattles like a Pontiac.

VWs made in PA back in the 80s were screwed together pretty poorly. But then, a lot of cars were put together pretty poorly at the end of the malaise era. Today's Passats are made in Germany and they have more problems than the Jetta/Rabbit, which are made in Mexico. Indeed, the new-body (B6) Passat has more rattles than the Mexicars. They also have a slot key thing and an electric parking brake (activated by a button on the dashboard) that are seriously prone to strand the car somewhere.

The Jetta/Rabbit, all in all, are actually pretty damn good little cars. The problems they seem to have are inherited from their big brothers. For instance, the intake manifold runner control (IMRC) on the 2.0 FSI motor, standard on the Passat, has a failure rate that should warrant a recall. At least it doesn't strand the car when it fails.

Don't get me started on the Eos and the Touareg. Suffice it to say, the Krauts have never done bleeding-edge technology well. You look at the Eos folding metal top and you know you don't want to own it out of warranty. The Touareg, though ox-stout and a serious off-road machine rivaling Land Rover, has control modules for absolutely everything, including a central module that talks to all the other modules. If a Touareg comes in with phantom electrical problems, we test the battery first. Even slightly iffy voltage will seriously fuck up a Touareg.

Reed's Jetta should have been put together better, since it was the very last of the Jetta III body. I think he just got a bad one.

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I'm so happy. I got to use the word "carbeque" on a repair order.

"Tow-in - Carbeque. Check history with tech **."
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I found this note taped to a customer's dashboard (new Passat) the other day. Check it out and see if you can guess what this gentleman's profession is.

Hi Jim,

The ladies need more

Redken Perm
- normal
- tinted
- creative curl

This comes from Marshall, right? Do you want to call and order it or do you want me to take care of it?

Let me know. Thanks.

You would be forgiven if you had said Hair Stylist or Salon Owner.

In fact, the nice customer's business card actually read Funeral Director.
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Since I am the second advisor in the row (Jacob is first), a big part of my day is directing people to the cashier (directly behind me) to pick up their cars. There is a large silver and black sign over our heads that is supposed to do the same thing. It doesn't. I sent this note Saturday to our Operations Manager hopefully giving him some direction.


Jacob and I were discussing the completely ineffectual overhead sign that ostensibly points customers to the cashier. As we all know, customers do not see this sign. Although it is big and silver and shiny, customers completely miss this bold piece of iconography so obviously in front of their blank faces.

Our conversation turned to promoting the cashing-out experience, as well as enhancing that experience, by removing ourselves from the act. Through vigorous research, we have concluded that bypassing the first two (2) service consultant stations could conserve as little as 15 seconds, and as much as 5 minutes, during the customers' busy day.

Hencewith and thusly are several compelling alternative methods of directing the customers in an efficient sheep-like manner to their ultimate check-out destination.

1. Neon

We believe that strategically placed neon could be utilized. This solution incorporates a ceiling-mounted neon tube "path" leading from the glass doors to the cashier's desk, incorporating a color-coordinated ring around the existing "CASHIER" sign. The electronic transformer for the neon would be strategically modified to hum loudly. This, combined with the transformer's location near the front door, would draw attention up to the neon tubing.

2. Glowing Floor Markers

Similar in concept to the "NEON" application above. However, instead of overhead neon, the floor would feature embedded colored lights, possibly blinking, leading to the cashier's desk. Instead of the neon transformer's aural confirmation, we would include a floor-embedded step-sound table programmed to play "happy" music when the customer is on the "correct" path and "angry" music when the customer is on the "wrong, stupid" path.

3. Pinball Machine Metal Railings

The front-most glass doors would need to be replaced with LCD panels. They would remain clear when not in use. As the customer approaches, a floor sensor is triggered and a holographic menu is projected in front of the customer (directed by nasal object recognition, or possibly respiratory vapor recognition). A recording asks where they would like to go. Based on their answer (voice recognition), an adjustable metal railing would descend from the ceiling and surround the customer's head. Told to keep moving forward, they would then be led, pinball rail-style, to the appropriate location.

4. Animatronic Boun Character

As we know, our Loaner Bitch, Boun, is hugely effective at directing human traffic. Unfortunately, due to efficiencies beyond our control, it is not possible for Boun to spew directorial mojo every minute of every hour we are open for business.

The clear solution is an animatronic likeness of Boun programmed with simple sets of instructions for customers. The animatron would be programmed to intercept all customers entering the service area. Buttons on the animatron's forehead would be labeled with useful destinations such as "PARTS" and "RESTROOM" and, of course, "CASHIER". When a destination button is pressed, a recording sounds and the animatron's arm points in the appropriate direction.

Additional buttons, perhaps placed on the chest or in the eye sockets, could be programmed to page the service manager or possibly the general manager. Such additions should probably wait for Version 2.0.

Dale, we recognize the need to improve our customer experience. The simple sign over our heads is well-nigh useless. I could have provided CES projections (in bar graph form), but our dumb WYSE terminals lack Microsoft Excel. Let's discuss the future and when it will begin.

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>>>>>>> On May 21, 2007, at 11:26 AM, Christopher wrote:
>>>>>>> Next, they'll put combination locks on the oil drainplug and not
>>>>>>> tell you the combination unless you take it to the dealer to get
>>>>>>> it changed.

>>>>>> On May 21, 2007, at 11:55 AM, Bill wrote:
>>>>>> The utility of changing your own oil is somewhat dubious . . .
>>>>>> and despite the horror stories (i.e., Jiffy Lube stripping drain
>>>>>> plugs, forgetting to put oil in, etc.) it is hard to beat having
>>>>>> your car serviced at a place like that ($24.99 and 15 min. later,
>>>>>> you're on your way).
>>>>>> New cars, that is.
>>>>>> The other added benefit is that dealerships and indy shops are
>>>>>> more likely to be a part of the reporting chain to CarFax, so if
>>>>>> you ever decide to sell your heap, there will be some record of
>>>>>> it having been serviced, whereas your folder full of receipts,
>>>>>> printed spreadsheet, etc., may not convince the would-be buyer
>>>>>> that the car was serviced properly.
>>>>>> On the cars I own that I would prefer no one else touch, I am
>>>>>> religious about documenting the service I do myself (receipts, oil
>>>>>> reports, photos, etc.) but even that might not be enough.
>>>>>> Similarly, you may find out THE HARD WAY (as our esteemed
>>>>>> colleague Marty learned) that an automotive manufacturer will not
>>>>>> replace your blown engine under warranty if you did not have it
>>>>>> serviced by a dealership/indy shop somewhere.
>>>>>> They may say, "well, it's nice that you changed your own oil, but
>>>>>> how do WE know you changed your oil? Or that you were competent
>>>>>> enough to do so?"
>>>>>> I think there is a HUGE cottage industry for forging / fabricating
>>>>>> maintenance documentation for cars in this scenario. You could scan
>>>>>> an invoice from the dealership (preferably a defunct one) and
>>>>>> Photoshop the specifics in and VOILA! Full documentation. Also,
>>>>>> there are ways to input changes/corrections into CarFax to support
>>>>>> your claims.
>>>>>> This is small potatoes next to BP's "Easy as one-two-three (tm)"
>>>>>> injury / accident insurance scam, but I still think there is money
>>>>>> to be made.
>>>>>> Regards,
>>>>>> Bill
>>>>>> (who still has 12 quarts of dirty Mobile 1 and trans fluid to take
>>>>>> to the local AutoZone . . . 90 days and counting)

>>>>> On May 21, 2007, at 1:43 PM, Dan wrote:
>>>>> Well it would be dubious if you never had to use your own valuable
>>>>> time and / or pay yet another person to fix whatever the chimpanzees
>>>>> at Jiffy Lube manage to screw up.
>>>>> The POS Beetle was usually taken to somebody for oil changes and
>>>>> as a result the proper amount of oil was rarely replaced and the drain
>>>>> plug treads were stripped twice. I refused to put a stop to this because
>>>>> I wanted the car to die. I did step in and perform a TimeSert thread
>>>>> repair on the when replacement was the alternative. Now that the VW is
>>>>> gone and since there are only 1K miles left on the warranty for the
>>>>> latest car nobody will be performing maintenance and repairs on the
>>>>> Mazda3 but me.
>>>>> -Dan

>>>> On May 21, 2007, at 5:56 PM, Bill wrote:
>>>> Again, you run the risk of Mazda not honoring your warranty if
>>>> anything goes wrong. Of course, there's nothing wrong with having
>>>> strong convictions. Then again, Pride is not one of the seven
>>>> deadly sins for nothing.
>>>> As far as shoddy service, over the past 25 years I have had a number
>>>> of different cars serviced at these type of shops . . . mostly oil
>>>> changes but a few alignments as well. To date, I have had ZERO
>>>> instances of any mistakes . . . not so much as even a quart low. I
>>>> think I may have even had the oil / trans / diff oil changed on one
>>>> of my E3s once.
>>>> Maybe you're jinxed? Have you considered public transportation?
>>>> Bill

>>> On May 22, 2007, at 7:59 PM, vwservice wrote:
>>> Volkswagen will honor a warranty claim, such as a B5 Passat 1.8 turbo
>>> de-sludge, as long as you have records from a shop. Any shop. Yes, you
>>> could fake those documents, but 99.999% of the population either wouldn't
>>> or couldn't. Most manufacturers will honor such a claim.
>>> Methinks Bill's paranoia doth run rampant.
>>> And as far as Jiffy-Lube-type places, you can have them all. I would
>>> say maybe twice per week on average we see either a stripped oil pan
>>> or a leaking Pennzoil (or whatever) oil filter.
>>> Even better, we have customers come in wanting to start an oil
>>> consumption test, usually after they had the oil changed at a quickie
>>> place. Most quickie places don't fill the oil all the way and don't
>>> check their work. The customer will want a test because they
>>> randomly, and uncharacteristically, decided to check their own oil
>>> and discovered it was low. Couldn't be the "Four Quarts And A Filter
>>> For $20" place didn't put in the required 5.5 quarts on their ATQ
>>> 2.8-liter V6, an engine that 99.999% of the time doesn't burn oil.
>>> Like the discussion of spark plugs, sometimes it pays to not be a
>>> cheap bastid.
>>> ~vwservice

>> On May 22, 2007, at 10:38 PM, Bill wrote:
>>I'm not sure why this makes me paranoid, since you're essentially
>>proving my point. No documentation, no warranty coverage. I merely
>>used Marty as an example, since he found out the hard way what happens
>>when you try to take the hard road.
>>I have never had a problem with warranty coverage, since I know how to
>>fool highfalutin Service Consultants like you.
>>Additionally, Steve Good owns one of those independent service shops
>>you jackasses are maligning, and there's nothing lower than hurting
>>poor Steve Good's feelings. Interestingly enough, I can come up with
>>more stories of incompetent dealership mechanics and their botched,
>>shit jobs, but I know you can as well.
>>And lastly, I suspect I am the only person on this list who uses
>>Iridium plugs. Sadly, I cannot tell the difference.
>>What is your point, exactly?
>> Bill

On May 23, 2007, at 10:10 PM, vwservice wrote:

Had you actually read my note, you would have noticed that I mentioned
Jiffy-Lube-type places. I did not mention independent shops such as
Steve Good's or, in fact, the one I used to work for.

Every shop breaks stuff: home, professional, dealer, independent. You
work on cars, you occasionally break things. It a percentages game. Ask
anyone who actually turns wrenches.

The quality of both independent shops and dealer service departments
varies greatly. In CA, it seemed the dealers were the thieves who broke
stuff and robbed people. Everyone took their cars to independents. Here
in the upper middle of the country, the opposite is true; independents
seem not to have such a stronghold on either the foreign or domestic
market. In fact, a lot of independents have absolutely crap reputations,
though there are some exceptional exceptions.

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I am one of those service consultants that will not bullshit you. If I have an opinion, you will hear it. If I think something is a good or bad idea, or a service is necessary or unnecessary, you will know.

A gentleman recently called me. He has a 2004 Passat 1.8t station wagon. He has been eyeing a Passat W8 wagon on our used lot. He asked my opinion on it.

I said, "I am going to tell you one point regarding the W8 engine and you can make a decision based on that. Ready? 78% engine failure rate."

"Holy cow," he said.

There is something inherently unbalanced about those engines that causes their balance shafts and crankshafts to eat themselves. Occasionally, the little round screens in the camshaft tensioner assemblies will get swallowed up and wind up in either in the head or oil pan. Havoc ensues.

I like the W8 engine in concept. I especially like the W8 engine in practice when backed up by a 6-speed manual; 2nd and 3rd gear are positively vicious. However, it is an engine that deeply frightens me.

When new, the engine itself originally cashed out to about $28,000 (including the core charge). The transmission was around $7.000. Though expensive when new, if you had driven over a curb or large rock, ripped open the oil pans for the engine and transmission, there was a good change your car would have been totaled by the insurance company.

Indeed, we had one such 2003 W8 wagon come in recently. A lady ran over something in the road, she said. She broke the engine oil pan, dented the front subframe, and ripped the transmission open. She also bashed the transmission and driveshaft up into the car's floorpan. She kept driving the car, until all the oil fell out of either the engine or the transmission, or both. Almost instant total by the insurance company. I think the car is still parked out back of the shop.
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