Communicating with the Factory

A good bit of my career was spent in Customer/Technical Service. For all of that, I always tried to imagine myself on the other side of the phone, even when the other side of the phone was attached to an asshole (follow this link for the theme song). Now that I AM on the other side of the phone, it is a lot easier to understand why customers begin conversations as if they are speaking with the devil. What follows is my discussion with the regional VW “Customer CARE Advocate” about the screwing I got and the 40’ shaft I would have taken if I’d have believed their techs are competent. I particularly love his closing “if there is anything else I can do for you, please feel free to email us again” comment. Please explain to me what he “did” for me. VW is one clearly clueless company. How the mighty have fallen.


Dear Mr. Day,

We partner with our dealerships to provide you with trained technicians and quality parts when your Volkswagen is in need of repair. I am troubled to hear you feel you received poor service from one of our dealerships.

Complaints about service at a dealership are taken very seriously. At your earliest convenience, please reply with more detail about your experience, like which dealership you went to, and what the independent has determined the concern to be.

I want to make sure we have enough information to properly address this. I look forward to your reply and if you have any other questions, please feel free to include them in your response.


Sam M.
Customer CARE Advocate


On Friday, November 29, I had my 2000 Winnebago Rialta (Volkswagen Eurovan) motorhome transported to University Volkswagen and Mazda because the transmission had switched to “limp home” mode several times between Roswell and Belen, New Mexico during the previous two days. Preceding the transmission problems, the Scangauge II diagnostic device installed in my motorhome began to have difficulty communicating with the Volkswagen engine and transmission electronics. I made all of this clear to the service technician I talked to over the phone, twice, but the technician apparently decided I was a clueless moron and he chose to ignore that information. I am a recently retired electronics and manufacturing engineer and while I might not be much of a Volkswagen mechanic, I can also read test gear and the Scangauge made it clear that some system communications problems existed.

Monday, December 2, I received a call from University Volkswagen with a $7,500 estimate for a “rebuilt transmission.” Since I had been able to get the vehicle to work flawlessly (except for the inability to communicate with the Scangauge II) three times in the 230 miles between Roswell and Belen, I suspected this was a computer-driven “analysis” with as little insight or common sense from the “mechanic” as possible. As I’m sure you know, Volkswagen dealers are not known for supporting competent service departments. Since the Eurovan is not something commonly seen and the Rialta is even more rare, incidents of dealer incompetence are familiar and Rialta owner’s groups (Rialta Tech – Yahoo! Groups and Rialta Tech, for example) warn new owners away from dealership service. Again, I requested that the tech look at the transmission multi-function switch connection and the Engine Control Unit’s connections, since those connections and electronics are commonly known sources of “limp home mode” operation. I was told that analysis would be useless, but the tech would look there anyway.

Because I had no faith in the analysis received and the service estimate was so extravagant, I decided to obtain another opinion. An Albuquerque native and Rialta owner, Paul Joseph, offered to help me look at the multi-function switch, just in case that turned out to be an easy fix. We drove the vehicle two blocks to a nearby bank parking lot and pulled the engine pan. When I removed the transmission multifunction connector, water dripped from the connector. Obviously, the “tech” did not look at that connector. Because it was dark and neither of us had a clue where the ECU is located, I restarted the vehicle and drove it to Los Lunas to have Hans Foreign and Domestic Car repair look at it. Surprisingly, they gave me the same analysis with a slightly lower repair cost, but they were unable to fit the Rialta in their bay and I decided to get a third opinion, from German Motowerkes, in Albuquerque.

These two trips required me to drive the vehicle in disabled mode and, now, I know that probably did some damage to the transmission. However, after tracking down the various error codes, three days later German Motowerkes called to say they had found a corroded connection on the ECU and after cleaning it three times, the vehicle appeared to work properly. I picked it up on Tuesday, December 10, and drove it to Santa Fe to visit friends and back to Belen where we had been staying. The Scangauge read a high transmission temperature of 195F on the steepest point of the trip and typically read 130F (I had installed a transmission cooler before we started this trip.). Apparently, outside of damage incurred while the ECU fault disabled the transmission, my vehicle is back in service and my total cost was less than $300.

Before delivering the vehicle to University Volkswagen, I knew about Volkswagen’s service reputation but I hoped my experience might be different because I know that most independent service centers are unfamiliar with and uncomfortable with modern Volkswagen products and I was 1800 miles from home and didn’t know anything about the Albuquerque area.

To top off the insult, when I delivered the vehicle to Hans Foreign and Domestic Car Repair we discovered the battery cover was missing. I’ve since discovered that Volkswagen has obsoleted this part so I can’t even buy a replacement from a dealer.


Dear Mr. Day,

Thank you for taking the time to provide me with all the details of your situation. I regret the service department at University Volkswagen was not able to meet your expectations for this repair.

I can appreciate your frustration. Being told a repair will cost you $7500, only to find out it is really a $300 fix, would not leave me feeling very confident in the abilities of the technician either. I am however, very glad to hear you were able to get the real cause for your concern diagnosed and repaired.

I have documented every detail you have provided me so we can review this situation internally. The feedback we receive about our dealerships is used to influence our future decisions about our dealership network. I greatly appreciate you sharing your experience.

To make sure the dealership is aware of your feedback, I have forwarded your comments on to their management staff. They are in the best position to make any adjustments to their practices, and offer training when necessary.

You are a valued member of our Volkswagen family, and this is not the experience we would hope you would have at one of our dealerships. I thank you again for taking the time to share the details of your situation.

If you have any other questions or comments, or if there is anything else I can do for you, please feel free to email us again.


Sam M.
Customer CARE Advocate


It was too late to do me any good, but after I posted my experience with University VW and Mazda on the Rialta groups, I got about a half-dozen emails from other Rialta and VW owners blistering that dealership for their lousy, overpriced, less-than-competent service. 30 years ago, I was a dedicated VW owner, but I did all of my own work on those simple air-cooled motors; including overhauls.

I’m a life-long motorcyclist and as I approach the age where two wheels could become impractical, my “reward” for being smart enough to get off of the bike was going to be a new VW Beetle convertible. I’m sure you can understand why that option is now off of the table. Maybe I’ll look for a ’67, like the one I owned back in ’67, though. I just won’t be able to drive it for 6 months out of the year because, as every old VW owner knows, VW’s dissolve like sugar in the snow and old German vehicles do not have heaters.

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