I took my wife’s car, a 2011 Volkswagen Polo 1.6 cc diesel, to a Volkswagen dealer. They were to repair a mirror damaged by another vehicle. I mentioned that on some mornings when the car was cold (around 5 C) the automatic transmission would not shift immediately. If I let the car warm up for 3 or 4 minutes the transmission shifted normally. Since the car was already in the garage for the scratch repair they said they would look at it.
I went back in the afternoon to pick the car up. They advised me that they could not simulate the shifting problem and that they would have to wait until the following morning when the car was cold to see if they could observe the problem. They also advised me that they had put the car on the computer and had sent the results to the main garage in Brussels. The results had not yet been returned. I went back on Friday and they advised me that they had now received the results and that three of the four fuel injectors would have to be replaced. I asked if this was the cause of the transmission not shifting immediately if it was cold. The answer was evasive. I asked how much three new injectors would cost if they were installed. The answer was +/- 1100 euros for parts and labor plus tva. They also advised me that Volkswagen was giving a reduction of 70% on the cost of the injectors because the car only had about 32,000 km on it. I asked how many hours it would take for the repairs and the cost per hour. The reply was approximately 5 hours at 63 euros per hour. I asked for a reduction on the labor as well but the answer was that “this is what the computer says it should be” and that no other reduction was possible. I was not convinced that this work was necessary but as they had recommended that it be done I agreed. I would bring the car in on the following Tuesday for the work to be done. It should be noted that I never made a request that the car be put on the computer for diagnosis and never signed any work order for this to happen. Nor did I sign any work order requesting that the three injectors be replaced.
On Monday morning I consulted an independent VW mechanic and explained the situation. He was puzzled as to why it was necessary to replace three of the four injectors on a car with only about 32,000 km. I told him about the problem of the transmission not shifting correctly until the car had warmed up for three or four minutes. He asked if the car was running smoothly when warm and I said that it was, that we had recently made a trip of about 2000 km with the car and that it had run perfectly. He advised me to just warm up the car for several minutes before driving and to continue driving the car as it was. He also suggested that I could add a product to the fuel which would clean the injectors. I purchased the product (Bardahl) from him and added the required amount to a tank of petrol. I asked him if it was likely that the problem with the injectors could be related to the slow shifting of the transmission when the engine was cold. He replied that he could not see why there would be any connection. I returned to the Volkswagen garage around noon on Monday and advised them to cancel the appointment for the next day. They said that there was a 10% fee for sending the parts back.
The car has continued to run smoothly. The next day we made a trip of about 300 km during which time the car ran smoothly all the time. However it is still necessary to warm up the car for several minutes on a cold morning to ensure that the transmission shifts easily.
On the following Thursday, I received two bills from the garage. One was for the sum of 158.25 euros plus tva for a total of 191.48 euros. This was for a “diagnostic de panne” (diagnosis of problem) which was for attaching the car to the computer and then sending the results to the central office in Brussels. The cost of this diagnosis was for 2 ½ hours of work at 63 euros per hour. The other bill was for 192.64 euros plus tva for a total of 233.09 euros. This amount was for “INDEMNITE RDV NON HONORE” (penalty for a missed appointment) in spite of the fact that I had cancelled the appointment approximately 24 hours in advance. The total for both bills was 424.57 euros although no actual work was ever done on the car. I did not request any formal diagnosis and had I known that they were going to charge 63 euros per hour for 2 ½ hours for such a diagnosis I would not have agreed to it. As long as I warm the car up for several minutes on a cold morning the car works and drives perfectly.
When I cancelled the appointment they said that there would be a 10% fee for restocking and returning the parts to the parts department in Brussels. The fee charged on the bill I received is 192.64 euros. I had originally been told that the amount of labor would be about five hours at 63 euros per hour or +/- 315 euros. The difference between 1100 euros and 315 euros would have been the cost of the parts, or +/- 785 euro. But if the 10% restocking fee is 192.64 euros the original cost of the parts must have been 1926.40 euros, or far more than the total estimated cost of 1100 euros for both parts and labor. It is obvious they are charging the return fee not on what the actual cost was to have been but on some unknown cost before the 70% reduction. (This would seem like a good way for Volkswagen to make money. Set an inflated price for parts, then give a 70% reduction, but if the customer is to be charged a 10% fee to return parts charge the 10% on the inflated amount.)
Question 1. Is it justified to charge a 10% restocking fee on what the price would have been without the 70% intervention or should it be on what the quoted price of the materials was to be?
Question 2. Is Volkswagen inflating the original cost of parts so that they can then propose a 70% reduction? And if the parts have to be returned should they use this inflated cost on which to calculate the 10% fee for parts returned?
Question 3. Volkswagen has already admitted to rigging automobile computers to give a false reading of fuel consumption. Are the Volkswagen diagnostic computers also rigged to indicate problems when no problems actually exist?
I returned to the garage on Friday morning, and told the receptionist that I was willing to pay the sum of 100 euros to end the affair. (Note that this is more than 10% of what the actual parts costs would have been.) She stated that the garage owner was not in at the time but that she would convey the offer to him and that I would be advised by telephone of his reply. On the following Tuesday I received a telephone call from the receptionist informing me that the owner would not accept this offer.
I also contacted Volkswagen Belgium. After a lengthy delay I finally received a reply. This basically stated that Volkswagen Belgium does not interfere in any dispute between a client and the Volkswagen agent.
As I was leaving the country in a few days I paid the bills so as not to incur further charges for late payment. I also consulted a lawyer who wrote two letters to the Volkswagen agency. He did not get a reply to either letter. I then contacted Test Achats, an organization which protects consumer rights. Test Achats also contacted the Volkswagen agent. The agent did not deny the amounts charged but said that as I had paid the bills then the amounts must have been accepted. Test Achats also advised me that when I paid the bills I should have made a notation on the bills that they were paid under protest. Unfortunately I neglected to do this. Test Achats also advised me that if I wanted to pursue the matter further I could initiate a court action against the agency. I have no interest in doing this and so will just write the matter off as a bad experience with Volkswagen.
1. I have paid a Volkswagen garage the sum of 424.57 euros for a simple diagnosis with no actual work ever being done on the car.
2. I have learned that if you pay a bill you do not agree with you should always make a notation on the bill that it is being paid under protest.
3. I have also decided that in spite of being a Volkswagen driver for many years my next car will definitely not be a Volkswagen.