I'm on my fourth VW, a 1999 Golf GLS with just over 140,000 miles. It's been through the wringer, so to speak. I spent over 30 visits because the power window regulator clips failed and the window would not close. I have a new hatch in the back because of someone's carelessness when she ran into my car at a stop light. Inside, things just fell apart. Recently, the sunroof drains clogged and water was exiting through the door trim. The center armrest door fell apart. It continues.
On the 12th of November, I had the car serviced. I was late for a major service, which was at 120,000 miles. Many things needed to be handled. When I made the appointment, I had requested that the forward side marker light be repaired, as it had been hanging. King's VW of Loveland, Ohio missed the hanging light in their several walk-around inspections, but they noticed the missing radio antenna--a huge safety risk.
When the survey arrived and I completed it, the manager replied at how that side marker light had been repaired--as if they'd done exactly as they should have. If they had, it would have been repaired on my initial visit, instead of focusing on the missing radio antenna. I actually travel past another VW dealer to go there because the closer one is not as highly rated. If haphazard care is what you get, why not go to the closer one, unless they really don't care about anything?
On the 17th of November, I was with friends in the Orlando, Florida area. As I was leaving their house, the low beam headlight on the driver's side was out. One of those had died about the same time four years earlier. Unfortunately, there is one that is easy to replace and the other requires removing things to get to it. (Volkswagen must think like GM or Ford.)
I really didn't want to mess too much, and I went to an Advance Auto Parts, thinking that their people might know immediately or be able to help me. "We don't do that!" I was told in a most rude tone. They replace wiper blades and batteries but not headlight bulbs. Okay, fine, but rudeness, really?
I went down the road to David Maus VW. They were new in 2008 when I was leaving the area. I had been dealing with Aristocrat VW from buying the car through service for it. At one point, they replaced their entire service department and they were no longer trustworthy. However, David Maus dealerships were an unknown. He was on tv telling people "whatever it takes" and I thought that he was just another one who couldn't be trusted.
So, I walked into the service department a few minutes early on Sunday morning. The service advisor was quite pleasant, and patient as I explained things. He quoted $59.95 for the bulb and labor. If it was on the easy side, that was overpriced. I also mentioned that my radio antenna was falling apart and I needed a replacement. He would ask parts about that.
Quite a while later, he told me that they were close to finishing and the radio antenna would be $79.95 (I expected $39.99 - $49.99) and they didn't have it in stock. He suggested eBay. That sounded better. I had bought a universal kit for $9.99 and I couldn't fit the pieces together. I am able to do IKEA or other do-it-yourself furniture but I'm not mechanically-inclined.
On checkout, he said that he went "to the back" and found "old antennas" and replaced mine for free. I'm sure I thanked him, but my cynicism kicked in and I thought that it was some sort of gimmick to get my trust. It was certainly better than Jimmy Bryan Mazda breaking something on my car so I'd have to return.
In the end, it worked out quite nicely because the radio antenna balanced the bulb being on the easy side. If it wasn't, then, I really do owe the dealership some loyalty but they'd have that already for not being rude, and doing a good job.
Strangely, I got a call the next morning from a salesperson. I say strangely because I was about 1000 miles from home. Do people keep their car titles with them? If I was buying a car locally, it would make sense. I would go home, retrieve it and make progress in the sale. I suppose I could just abandon my car 1000 miles from home, or give it to strangers. In any case, I thought that it was amusing that they would attempt a sale from someone visiting the state.
Thinking back to my first two VWs, I used to get a lot of smart ass remarks from the dealerships. Al Holbert, who raced Audi cars, had a Porsche/Audi/VW dealership in Warrington, PA. I took my 1986 VW GTI there at around 30,000 miles for brake work. It needed the two front brake rotors replaced. I asked politely "What makes that happen?" and the service advisor answered "your foot". He had a long day? I had a long day! If VW was doing surveys at that point, he'd get the opposite of a "Truly Exceptional". I'd never had a car that needed rotors replaced at 30,000 miles. That was exceptional.
You'd think if you were paying exceptionally high prices for service--the rates were often the same no matter the manufacturer--that you'd be getting people working between you and the mechanics who knew how to not infuritate customers. Sure, Porsche hourly rates were nothing compared to Rolls-Royce but my car was about 25 % the price of the nearest Porsche model.
I'm guessing I'll be at a Subaru or Mazda dealer once I decide where I'm going to live next. I can't just buy a car any longer. There are no 50 state cars now, unless diesel cars fit that.
Update 2013.01.27: So, I just had the strangest experience this week. The car was overheating in 17 degrees Fahrenheit weather. I drove the car too far trying to get it home. I was going to put water in it, but the water bottles I kept in the car were frozen solid. The next morning, I had the car towed to Expert Tire, since 60 miles to a VW dealership was inconvenient. They pulled things apart and found a distribution point that had cracked. Why it was plastic is beyond me. Given the state of extremes in weather and coolant temperatures, I thought the parts would be made of metal. They received a replacement part, which wasn't correct, and later that day received the correct part since they could send it back and match it. The pressure test revealed no other issues. I had the oil changed due to the extraordinary heat--all those adverts about engine heat breaking down oil got to me.
I ended up with a rental car from Hertz--not recommended too much--and have definitely decided against a Toyota Corolla. My arms aren't long but the door was designed for someone with excessively short arms, as the controls and door handle were several inches back of what seemed natural. What's more, I'm half-Japanese, so the car should fit me fairly well.
I've been considering a new car more and more, especially since my mum's house sold and I have the cash. A reasonably local, highly-rated Subaru dealer has some Impreza Sport models at a reasonable price. I also found a couple of 2012 VW Golf TDI leftovers at the dealership that does my service. The discounts put them at almost acceptable prices. They're all over $20,000--a line I'd never crossed in the past. I also wanted to look at Mazda 3, but given the dealerships wanting to charge extra or play games, I'm not likely to bother. Plus, I want a car I can keep in California and the diesels are ULEV II-compliant, and that's huge. Will they last 14 years as my current Golf is approaching that age? Will they be as shabby? I'm concerned. The Subaru Impreza is a more reliable choice, but will it have an emotional resonance?
Update 2013.07.17: I bought the VW Golf TDI and I've even been through the 10,000 mile service. Since there wasn't anything really wrong with the car, it went smoothly and it was inexpensive for them and at no cost to me. There is another service at 20,000 miles and I'm only about 4000 miles from that now. I might have to have that done while I'm on a trip somewhere else.
Update 2014.11.14: I'm over 40,000 miles now, and it's been relatively fine, except for a botched 20,000 mile service (pinched the fuel filter--didn't reimburse me for the fuel) when I was on the road back in August 2013.
Now that I'm living in Northern California, I'm happy to have found a great service department within 15 miles or so. There are three VW dealers within that distance, but only one is great. They mentioned that they have customers from the San Francisco Bay Area. That seems impressive. You would think that they'd have great dealerships in a large metropolitan area but this one is in a small city of 200,000 people.