In part two of today’s rants and raves, I wanted to follow up on a story posted here a couple months ago about the dying transmission in my 2003 VW Jetta Wagon. Some of you attentive readers might have remembered that as part of that repair they “offered” to replace my clutch which “had some wear on it”. At $600 this was a bit of a deal for me because since they’d already have the transmission out for the warranty repair, they could then replace the clutch at a discounted rate. At least $1,000 or so less. Sounded good to me so I went ahead and had them do it.
VWoA vs. Me
Well, all was well for a couple months, but then the trouble started up. My clutch started slipping about 2.5 months later. When I accelerated, say in 3rd gear when merging onto highway, once the revs reached around 3,000 RPM the clutch would slip out and the car would just rev up really high, as if I’d slowly disengaged the clutch. This was utterly frustrating b/c they had so recently replaced the clutch I knew this was gonna be a pain. I also thought that this would be a no-brainer since they had so recently installed the clutch they would just replace it free of charge under a warranty or something. I was wrong, oh so wrong.
I dropped my car off on a Tuesday. The following weekend I was going to be in FL on vacation, returning to MD the next Tuesday so I told VW they could keep it for a whole week. Before I left the dealership they asked me to go for a test drive w/ one of the technicians. This was a) so they could observe my driving style and b) so I could recreate the problem. This went well; the tech told me that I drive well and that the only thing he noticed was that I occasionally will engage the clutch while waiting for a light to change and that this will wear out the clutch as it adds pressure to the system. Whatever, I thought, I hardly do this anyway.
I got a call from them on Friday telling me that they were about to open up the transmission and that because it’s a warranty repair they will need my permission. Of course I gave it to them. My service adviser also informed me that if the part is faulty that VW will replace the clutch no cost. BUT, if there is heavy wear (i.e. from riding the clutch, etc.) that it will be MY responsibility to foot the bill… for $1,500+… on a clutch they installed 2.5 months earlier. This didn’t sit well with me.
Well, I had to get on a plane the next morning and was on my way to FL so I didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to get a call from them saying that they fixed it, no charge, come pick it up at your earliest convenience. As I was walking in the door after the trip to FL, with bags in hand, my phone rang. My service advisor informed me that they found wear on the clutch and that it was now my responsibility to foot the bill and that they wouldn’t cover it. Poor timing and a sense that there were some shenanigans going on here, I told him I’d be at the dealership in the morning to speak w/ the manager. I then called my awesome mechanic (they are the best) and went over the situation with him. He was great – he has been around VW’s most all of his days and he knows every story that you could tell about VW nightmares. He was very helpful in nailing down exactly what sort of things to focus on with my case. I.e. the fact that I am a careful driver when it comes to manual transmissions and that the previous clutch which lasted 54,000 miles before VW replaced it (out of convenience) wasn’t completely worn out at all. Also, VW has a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty on all parts – even consumables like a clutch.
Armed with my newfound knowledge and a general sense of right vs. wrong on this issue, I went in to the dealership fully expecting WWIII with the service manager. Instead, he was very straightforward and friendly. He was completely sympathetic and agreed with my perspective. The problem, he said, was that because there is wear on the part, VW won’t honor the warranty. Because there is no “fault” with the part, they won’t honor it. So, in this case, the dealership would have to eat the cost and that just wasn’t going to happen. BUT, he said he was going to talk to his boss and then to the regional boss and see what they could do and get back to me. Several hours later he got back to me and said nothings changed. They still won’t pay for the repair and I could a) bend over and take it up the arse or b) call VW of America and file a complaint with one of their customer “advocates”. So I called VWoA and pleaded my case.
After about a week, I got the call. VWoA agreed that they would cover the repair under the parts warranty and that I would be absolved of any costs associated w/ the repairs. I was ecstatic. I felt that VW had done the “right” thing and stood behind their parts. There was either a faulty part or a faulty installation here, not a faulty driver. I don’t rag on my clutch so there’s no way I could have ruined one in two and a half months. So by now VW had my car in the shop for 10 days. I spoke w/ my service advisor on Friday and he said that he hadn’t heard from VWoA yet and that it would probably be Mon or Tue before they got back to me. Come Wednesday the service advisor said they still hadn’t heard from the mothership yet so I had to call VWoA again to see what’s going on. VWoA said they had spoken to the manager at the dealership already and cleared the repair…. well, you see where this is going. Back and forth and back and forth. Eventually I got the two to talk to each other and got the repairs underway.
16 days later I got my car back with a new clutch and walked out a happy man. VWoA did the right thing. I don’t feel I got away with anything, I feel like the situation resolved the correct way. If it was two or three years after they replaced the clutch, I wouldn’t balk at the huge repair bill. Because it was probably my fault and there would be no surprise. But two and a half months? Come on! It’s nuts to think that they would even ask me to pay for this repair. What troubles me is that if I had just gone ahead and paid for the repair initially (as many folks probably would) I would be out $1,500+. And all in all, it wasn’t my responsibility. Well, thanks anyway VW for making things right.