Two years ago, my wife and I purchased a new VW Golf Wagon TDI diesel. The car drives very nicely, and is very efficient - as well as being surprisingly fun to drive. That torque is just amazing.

However, we have had a serious problem with the car, from the time we bought it. About a month in, the car would not start in a parking lot. We called VW Roadside assistance, but they could not find a tow that could accommodate us (myself, my wife and our then 2 year old and her legally mandated car seat). Luckily we were able to call CAA, and we were towed to a nearby dealership. A couple of days later, they claimed to have changed some parts, fixed the problem and we drove away.

A few months later, it stalled when driving down a major street. I noticed that the gauges all blinked a variety of confusing things, and settled on an ESP error. I was able to roll to a stop in a safe place, and we called roadside assistance (from CAA this time - I don’t usually repeat the same mistake expecting different results). It was towed to a different dealership (close to the stall this time). I had to pay for a taxi to get us back home from the dealership, which VW Canada refused to reimburse. It was this time we discovered that the car would start again after the delay. However, we left it at the dealership for them to troubleshoot. This time they spent more time on the car, waited for some parts from Germany, and again claimed to have fixed the problem. We took the car back.

Fast forward to this past Christmas - actually December 15th. I was driving with the family in Hamilton where we now live, and the car stalled again, showing ESP error. I called VW roadside assistance, only to be told the car is out of warranty at 89000 km (the line is 80000). We called CAA, but by the time they arrived, the car started, and it being holiday season and us having a sizable commute, I crossed my fingers and thanked CAA for their trouble and we continued on our way. However, all was not well. That weekend, the car stalled a total of seven times, most of them on the very busy Highway 403, in bad weather. I took the car in to 401 Dixie VW, but they could not replicate the fault. Needing the vehicle, and frankly out of options, I took it back. A week later, it stalled again and would not restart - again with the family aboard. I got it towed to 401 Dixie VW (the nearest at the time). Now they have had it for 3 weeks, and have gone back and forth as to they think they have found the problem, to a silence and not returning my calls. I have been in touch with VW Customer Care also over the last three weeks - demanding that they own this problem and take care of it and me. So far - and we have been without a vehicle for three weeks now - they have yet to commit to anything. VW Canada promised to escalate my call last week - and have someone call me within 48 hours. It has been a full week since then.

Here are some of the impacts on us.

  • We have been put in danger every time the car stalled - only my experience as a long time driver has allowed me to consistently coast the car to safety each time.
  • We have still been in significant danger each stall - 5 times I have been stuck on the shoulder of a GTA series 400 highway - among the busiest highways in the world - for at least 5 minutes each time, sometimes with my 4 year old daughter in the back. My daughter is now scared of "the white car".
  • We have been seriously inconvenienced on every occasion that the car has stalled - missed appointments, parties (for my daughter) etc.
  • We have had to car pool everyday for the last three weeks although my wife and I have busy separate schedules most nights of the week. This has cut into our work hours, and our after hours activities significantly.
  • My daughter has missed out on some of her activities - swim class, dance class etc.
  • I have had to cancel appointments at short notice (every day expecting that to be the day my car is returned) - dentists - understandably - tend to charge for these things.
  • We have had to pay out of pocket for a Taxi and a tow (the last tow was at the request of the police since CAA were going to be too long) - another $140.
  • We have had to call on family to pick us up across the city and get us home - once to Mississauga and once to Hamilton.
  • I am wasting time at home and work on dealing with this issue.

I even had 2 different tow operators tell me they would leave the car at a dealership and cancel the payments - and then I had a VW Roadside Assistance operator tell me the same thing! I have no real faith that whatever VW do to the car will fix the problem - since they have tried 3 times already without success.

Now this is just plain BAD BUSINESS. If just ONE person changes their mind about buying a Volkswagen as a result of my experiences (I can actually name one person who already has) - then they lose any money they might “gain” by screwing me over. I honestly suspect that they will lose more than that one customer. I am connected to thousands on G+ and Facebook, and I have wide circles of friends and acquaintances as well as a very large extended family.

I get that problems can occur. Any company can make a lemon - a faulty part, poor assembly - whatever. It is what a company does when things go wrong that separates quality from crap. Unfortunately, we have discovered exactly where VW live in this equation. Sorry VW, even if you make good (on the repairs) now - you have already failed.