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Volkswagen still unsure about recall fall-out

Keep the faith: Volkswagen will contact customers affected by the recall in July for a three-hour service at their local dealer.

German car-maker waiting to see what effect a massive recall has in its showrooms

Volkswagen logo18 Jun 2013

VOLKSWAGEN says it is still unsure what effect an owner-led revolt is having on the brand several weeks after concerns were aired questioning the safety of its cars.

“To be honest, it’s not something we have analysed,” Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) public relations manager Kurt McGuiness said yesterday at the car-maker’s first media event since a coroner’s court hearing into the death of a Volkswagen owner prompted many other owners to speak out.

“Our main priority -- and it’s our main priority every day -- is obviously dealing with customers and making sure they are still happy with their vehicles.

“We are really committed to reinstating any lost confidence in our product. We are standing behind our product our new vehicles are not affected by the recall or this action.

“So that is first and foremost, in terms of assessing the brand, customers first.”

The German premium car-maker late last week issued a recall of 25,928 Volkswagen-badged vehicles in Australia after backing down over claims it had not addressed issues relating to dual-clutch transmissions, despite issuing a number of recalls overseas to fix the problems.

Owner outrage was sparked after a Melbourne coroner’s court last month heard a Volkswagen Golf had unexpectedly slowed on a freeway in 2011 before a truck slammed into the back of it.

Media reports have subsequently aired problems encountered by several other Volkswagen owners, including instances where their cars had unexpectedly shut down while driving.

However, while many owners have complained about automatic gearboxes, the Volkswagen Golf at the centre of the coronial inquest was fitted with a manual gearbox.

Mr McGuiness declined to say if buyers were avoiding Volkswagen showrooms in the wake of the recall, although he said advertising and promotion for recently released vehicles, including the new Golf, would continue unaffected.

Asked why VGA took so long to initiate the local recall, given that there had already been recalls for similar issues in China, Japan and Singapore last year, Mr McGuiness said issuing a recall was a lengthy process, adding that the company worked closely with the federal department of infrastructure and transport, and the consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“Our processes are exactly the same as any other manufacturer and we have been continuing discussions on a day-to-day basis on any number of things,” he said.

He also would not be drawn on whether Volkswagen’s local arm could have managed the recall more effectively, and instead highlighted the actions the brand had already taken.

“I think the important thing to remember is that this recall that we have initiated is a voluntary recall,” he said.

“That is something we have taken on with the (federal) department of transport and once again the appropriate reaction for us is making sure the customer is happy with their vehicles, which is why we have got a complimentary peace-of-mind check.”

The peace-of-mind check offers any Volkswagen customer with concerns about their vehicle a free safety check at a local dealer, even if the customer believes the vehicle is not affected by the recall.

Customers with affected vehicles that are out of warranty are covered under the recall, with Mr McGuiness confirming that any repair or replacement to the gearbox’s “mechatronic” unit would be free. Any customer that has previously paid for the repair would be reimbursed, he said.

Following the massive recall of 384,181 vehicles in China for defective gearboxes, managing director of Volkswagen China Jochem Heizmann made a public apology to affected customers at an event at the Shanghai motor show in April this year.

Mr McGuiness was unable to confirm whether Australian Volkswagen customers would receive an apology, but said that the company is doing all it can to address any concerns.

“We are prepared to address any customers one-on-one on a case-by-case basis. Our dealers are ready to take vehicles in and check them over. Our response to our customers is, we are here to help,” he said.

The recall announced last week affects vehicles including the Polo, Golf, Jetta and Passat passenger cars, and Caddy light-commercial vans, built between June 2008 and September 2012 and fitted with the company’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DSG).

Two other Volkswagen Group companies that use the gearbox, Audi and Skoda, have issued separate recalls.

Audi is recalling A1 and A3 models built between 2008 and 2011, while Skoda is recalling Octavia and Superb models built between 2009 and 2011.

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