My Bad VW Experience      

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I bought a new VW Passat in 2000 and sold it in 2003, long before my usual seven year car ownership period.  The car was sleek and fun to drive, but what good is a car whose engine light comes on every one  to four weeks?  From 15K to 40K miles, Southern States of Durham, with VW's "assistance", was unable to fix a persistent check engine light situation.  VW should have offered to replace the car given the history of repairs, but instead they started charging me for repairing this ongoing condition.   VW customer service exists merely to give people the initial impression that they can help, when in fact they are powerless.  I surmise that they exist merely to pacify people long enough to get them out of the lemon law period.

In hindsight I should have been more diligent about getting the car right back into the shop every single time, because I certainly would have qualified for the lemon law.  But I was too nice a guy.  Don't make the same mistake I did.  Be diligent about getting timely repairs.  Drive to another dealer if your dealer seems to only know how to reset the check engine light and not how to actually fix anything.  Read about making sure that the right things are documented on your repair tickets.  One state's supreme court ruled that a dealer's submission of parts and labor requests under warranty can help substantiate your claims in court.  Read your state's lemon law and give proper notices.  Stick to cars with above average reliability ratings and don't be swayed by feature reviews unless you happen to work next to a VW dealership and want to trade the car in before the warranty is over.  Even with the warranty, having to take a car in for repairs monthly in years two and three of its life is a real drag.  

I highly recommend that you avoid Volkswagen at all costs.

Good Luck and Have a great day!   

Update - March 2004

Is Consumer Reports getting paid off by VW?  In the April 2004 edition's reliability page (page 17), VW bottomed out at  28th out of 30 for 3 year old Passats and DEAD LAST (29th of 29) for 5 year old Passats.  On page 81, Volkswagen has 3 models (Golf, Jetta, New Beetle) in the "REPEAT OFFENDERS" section of "USED CARS TO AVOID".  On the same page, Passat 1998-2000, 2002 4 cyl, and 1996-1997 6cyl make the general AVOID list.

So why would Consumer Reports make the 2004 Passat a Top Pick?  Inquiring minds would like to know why CR places no value on horrible past performances when rating new cars.  This is the whole reason I got suckered into the 2000 Passat in the first place.  While I have respected CR for quite some time, this has me reconsidering.


bullet"My VW Lemon"
bulletStats on How Poorly VW fares on lemon claims
bulletMichael Johnson's Experience
bulletAn owner's experience
bulletA Passat Forum
bullet"Suckers Wanted" (A VW Experience)
bulletShame On You: Volkswagen Touareg SUV
bullet Jetta Problems


My final letter to VW:


Dear Sir or Madam:

This letter is to inform you that I will forever remain an extremely dissatisfied “former Volkswagen owner”.  I have owned many cars in my lifetime and not one has had near as many visits to the shop as this 2000 Passat, particularly this early in the car’s lifetime.   

I am still astounded that VW and Southern States were incapable of isolating whatever fundamental problem was causing the various “EMISSIONS WORKSHOP!” check engine light warnings which started at 15,000 miles and never stopped.  I thought I was being a nice guy by giving you more opportunities to fix it, but I have now learned the hard way that you don’t stand behind your product.  My last visit ended with an irresolvable check engine light condition and an offer to replace a sensor (that was not in stock).  A few hours later, I became the proud owner of a Subaru Outback, which has been rated as more reliable than Passat by Consumer Reports (of course, what wouldn’t be rated more reliable?).

It is inexcusable the number of times that I had to take the car in for repair,  take the shuttle to work, and find transportation for overnight when you would not give me a loaner.  I buy new cars to try to minimize downtime.

The real shame here is that I loved every aspect of my Passat except the unending, nagging reliability problems.  If VW had honored my request for a painless trade-in with an acknowledgement that it had sold me a troubled vehicle, then I would have remained a very faithful owner.

Good Bye and Good Riddance, VW.  You just lost an affluent customer with a wife and 3 children who will never own a VW.  I am telling everyone I know and many I don’t to avoid VW.

Mark Peters

PS – You may continue to send me the VW magazine if you like.  I love defacing and then burning the VW logo.


After one month with no response, I sent a copy of the letter with a "why haven't you responded?" cover letter.

Two weeks later, VW "customer care" called and said that they received my letter and that they are not willing to do anything to make this right.  


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