I drive a 2010 Volkwagen CC. I bought it last year, and mostly I like the car, even love it some days, though I’m not really a car guy. It sits low to the ground and the tires are about three feet wide. It accelerates in a forceful but not showy way, and its seats wrap around me in an amicable, almost consoling fashion, which is pretty nice at the end of a long day in a windowless office.
There is, though, a well-known transmission issue with a few of them (there have been recalls in other jurisdictions), and it turns out mine is afflicted too. The VW dealership in Brampton where I found the car denies it completely. It’s operating within “acceptable parameters” they said, after I’d driven it all the way down there and they’d looked it over. So I have a car that lurches and jerks horribly in first and second gears after it warms up, sort of like a toddler trying to break free of its parent in a crowded parking lot, and I have a bad taste in my mouth as well.
Before this car, I drove for half a dozen years a 2004 Passat that I bought here in Kingston. That was a wonderful car but an awful sales experience too. I complained in writing to the manager, and shortly afterwards the salesman approached me menacingly in a coffee shop and promised to “change my life”. Said that people had learned not to mess with him. Which is a charming approach, don’t you think, and one that made me want to hurt him right then and there in a pre-emptive, hawkish sort of way, something I’m not in the slightest bit proud of.
I wrote to VW Canada after that debacle and they wrote back promptly on a luxurious letterhead. We’ve talked to the Sales Manager, they said, and don’t think you’ve got much of a claim. We’ve closed the file. I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. They mentioned the Manager by name. I looked him up. He hadn’t worked for VW for years. Corporate was just making shit up to get rid of me.
Writing this down now, I wonder why the hell I bought the CC. And the answer is that I like the machines VW builds. Or at least I did. I thought the entire problem was with the people who worked at Kingston VW (most of them have moved on now, I just checked), and some bored-stiff functionary in a Complaints cubicle out near the Autobahn. Turns out, of course, that I was dead wrong.
The recent revelation that VW deliberately set out to deceive emissions monitoring equipment (and so deceive its own customers) is pretty appalling stuff. It shows a complete disrespect for the customers, the regulators, and even the planet we live on. But in my limited experience that disrespect and flouting of the rules and the ethics of good business goes all the way down to the street. The lovely and evocative VW badge has lost all its shine, and the company itself can count me among the customers who won’t be back.