Volkswagen tops list of complaints about new cars

Of the 12 dealt by Case, most were related to faulty gearboxes

A Volkswagen Singapore spokesman said seven of the complaints received by Case had to do with the cars' dual-clutch transmission and that the issues were resolved by the company's recall last year.
A Volkswagen Singapore spokesman said seven of the complaints received by Case had to do with the cars' dual-clutch transmission and that the issues were resolved by the company's recall last year. ST FILE PHOTO

Volkswagen is the German term for "people's car" - but in Singapore, the brand is getting some people in a twist.

The Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) said it tops the list for complaints about new cars here, with one in three such gripes aimed at the manufacturer.

Twelve out of 36 complaints between 2012 and last month have been about Volkswagen. Most were related to faulty transmissions.

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said the association has written to Volkswagen Singapore "expressing our concern in view of the increasing number of complaints about defective parts".

Mr Seah noted that VW complaints have crept up from one in 2012 to eight last year and three in the first four months of this year, with the defects usually appearing less than a year after delivery. "Some consumers even reported defects within a week," he said.

Volkswagen Singapore spokesman Colin Yong said seven out of the 12 complaints had to do with the cars' dual-clutch transmission, called DSG.

"These DSG-related issues were solved by our recall last year and there have been no repeat complaints," he said. "There may have been some customers who experienced issues between the announcement of the recall and the time their cars were actually recalled."

Mr Yong acknowledged that the company has faced "challenges... in after-sales and customer care, especially from 2010 to the beginning of 2013".

"Customers did not get responses to their complaints as quickly or completely as they deserved to," he admitted, but added that the firm "managed to turn this situation around last year".

Businessman Khoo Jun Hong, 37, bought a VW Jetta in 2012. It soon began vibrating violently whenever it moved off from standstill. "It was so bad that the dashboard shook," he said.

He said it took "four to five" visits to the workshop and more than eight weeks for VW to fix the flaw, which was traced to a faulty gearbox.

But now the car is "not responsive" and he admitted: "I regret buying this car."

Housewife Tan Ai Peng, 39, suffered similar woes. Her VW Touran, bought in late 2011, had a window that creaked loudly whenever it was wound down. "It took them 11/2 years to fix," she said.

Then, one day. her husband was driving it when it stalled "in the middle of a cross junction". It was repaired, but two months later it stalled again.

"It was rush hour, my kids were with me and the vehicles behind were sounding their horns," she recalled. The car was again towed to the workshop.

"They tell me it is fixed, but I still worry if it's safe to drive," Madam Tan said. "That's why I've asked Case to handle this."

Mr Seah said that if problems persist, "consumers can request a refund or a reduction in price under the Lemon Law".

"If they are unable to resolve the dispute with the business amicably, they can either approach Case or file a claim at the Small Claims Tribunals," he added.

VW's German rival BMW drew the second biggest number of new-car complaints with eight, about engine stalling, engine leaking and rattling noises.

Mr Seah noted that new-car complaints are rare, making up around 10 per cent of all car complaints and less than 5 per cent of the total number of complaints Case receives.

Most overall complaints that Case received in 2012 and 2013 were about cars, fuelled largely by the surge in used-car sales on the back of high new-car prices.

Case has not received any complaints about new Toyotas, despite the brand having been hit by recalls in the past two years.

Between 2012 and April this year, BMW and Mercedes-Benz were the biggest sellers here, with 9,924 and 9,758 cars sold respectively. Toyota and VW followed with 9,124 and 7,140.

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