Customer-Help from VAG

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We attended a Press Conference in July promoted by Volkswagen (GB) Ltd. to explain its new schemes for helping its customers and that from the first of next month it and its VW-Audi dealers will be known as VAGs. It is simply that they consider, in this age of abbreviations, that VAG (UK) Ltd. is less clumsy than the old VW-Audi name.

They also are trying very hard to win back business from the “quick-fit” boys, in respect of exhaust system replacements, new batteries, brake replacements and the like, by trying to persuade VW-Audi (sorry VAG) users to come to them for such servicing. To this end they have introduced an ambitious scheme whereby you can ring any VAG dealer and be quoted a standard price for any of 100 such jobs, which will not vary between dealer and dealer. In addition, there will be strong attempts to please such customers, by permitting them to talk in the workshops with the mechanics who are to work on their cars, by recruiting fully-qualified mechanics (ERIC awards and the Eric statuette are made as high accolades for After Sales Staff at VW-Audi dealerships), by introducing a VAG budget-card scheme, by using a new generation of service equipment, the VAG 2000, and by pouring at least £8 million in improved customer service.

We were particularly glad to have sat-in on this Conference, because the Rover 3500 in which we drove to Milton Keynes to take away a road-test Audi 200 ST Turbo provided a sharp reminder of the need for better servicing. The Rover had recently blown a cylinder head gasket, following overheating caused by a silted-up cross-flow radiator, and it had been taken to a prominent Welsh British Leyland agent to have its cylinder head studs tightened up, after the faulty gasket had been replaced by our own workforce. The charge for this job, taking perhaps an hour, was £13.58 with VAT; this included 56p for “sundry materials,” although none was required! As this seemed an exorbitant charge we queried it with Sir Michael Edwardes, only to be informed that Leyland leave such costing to the garage concerned.

So in respect of standard charges for repairs and servicing the new VAG scheme is commendable, even though we are not convinced it will work in every respect — for instance, will customers be charged for their cosy little chats with the mechanics, will these “Erics” be deflected by their information-imparting to the car-owners, and what will Service Managers think of it all? (We were informed, however, that there is no intention of down-playing the service men). VAG also propose to list everything on a customer’s car that renders it unroadworthy in their view, asking the owner to sign the statement, to clear the “Eric” concerned, which is unlikely to be acceptable, we think, a list of defects needing attention being sufficient, surely? However, any attempt to improve repair services is to be welcomed now that motoring costs so much, providing the intended improvements do not disguise inflated charges. We can but hope that VAG will do better than Leyland did on the occasion of the aforesaid Rover nut-tightening exercise — in doing this little, but very expensive, job the break-servo pipe was knocked off, unnoticed, and when replaced was not wired on. . . .

Incidentally, VAG are dead against the inducements to buy new cars now being operated by agents for leading makes. They say this is bound to result in increased prices eventually. pointing out that VW-Audi prices have increased only twice since January 1979, whereas other manufacturers have increased prices three, four and even five times. VW stated that their prices rose in this period by 14%, against Leyland’s 17%, Fiat’s 21%, and the 22% of Chrysler and Renault, and that whereas the owner of a year-old VW Golf can expect to get 72% of the new price. a Ford Escort owner can look for 68%, a Ford Cortina owner for 64%, a Morris Marina owner for 61%, a Fiat Mirafiori owner for 59% and a Renault 25 owner for only 56%. We assume that Michael Heeles of VW-Audi would like us to conclude by saving: “Verburn rapientisa”. WB.