I've had a lot of work done on my 1999 VW Golf GLS lately.
I had my front struts replaced, which shouldn't be unusual over 120,000 miles.
A part in the ignition lock cylinder broke and had to be replaced. Of course, this required the steering wheel, air bag, and steering column to be disassembled. The air bag idiot light is on and I've notified the people who did the work. If I'm in a wreck, does the air bag not deploy? I almost got the answer in the last week.
The oil dipstick holder fell apart and had to be replaced, but couldn't be replaced by the local people, so I went to a VW dealer. The VW dealer knew exactly how much to charge for the holder, so it must be a common problem.
While I was there, I had them run a diagnostic. They mentioned the evap valve and a brake pressure hose that showed up on the diagnostic. They also mentioned the serpentine belt, which had minor cracks and the radio antenna, of which the cover is falling apart and the internal wire coil is rusted. I took it off for the previous car wash and hadn't replaced it yet. They somehow missed the hanging side marker light, which should have been obvious. I can't get it to stay put.
They ordered the brake hose, as they didn't have such parts in stock. Seriously? They don't stock safety parts?
The next day, on an overnight trip, 2 brake hoses split, thankfully while it was parked. The mechanic was ingenious enough to do what a mechanic from 30 years ago would do. He fashioned the parts from regular brake hose. A few days later the brake hose arrived at the VW dealer and I made an appointment for the following week.
They replaced the brake hose without comment. They replaced the evap valve and did a smoke test to check for leaks and found none. They replaced the serpentine belt without incident. As they were trying to back out, reverse would not engage. This sounded a bit convenient, but they worked it around so that it wasn't costing me much more. At nearly $700 total, it was plenty already. Having had multiple bad experiences with Jimmy Bryan Mazda in Winter Park, FL, I was suspicious about sudden problems at the dealership.
As I drove away from the dealership, muttering choice words, I noticed that the car had more power with the air conditioning running, more than I'd ever remembered. I gave it more than a week, and took a trip to Philadelphia and back, and noticed that it continued to supply more power, and fuel economy. I haven't had a tune up for a number of years, although that would mostly be a set of spark plugs.
In the good days, the car would rarely give me over 25 mpg with the air conditioning running and it was a serious power drain, to the point that I didn't like to use it. It seemed expected, though, and it had worked this way from the start. Over the trip, I was getting 30-32 mpg with air conditioning, except for an extended period in Center City Philadelphia while police had us (practically) driving in circles, and that was 28+ mpg, not as low as 25.
I'm sure the car still needs work, but could certain parts have been defective from the factory and no one bothered? The window regulator clips certainly proved that. I made 30+ visits to the dealer to have those replaced, though VW of America denied the problem.
A little more work and it may be as good as new--or better than new.