The long and arduous process of VW Malaysia's warranty claim

It's been 11 weeks since I last drove my VW Golf 1.4 TSI, and today I've got it back. I never imagine it will take this long to fix my ride, after all it was built by Germans in Germany and not some dweeb in Italy at an Alfa plant. Plus it came with a 5 year warranty, that will definitely say something about how reliable the car is... or in my case how unreliable.

How did I get into this mess?

It all started when I went up North for a night on one weekend and drove the car at highway speeds, depending on the urge at any particular time it could have been anywhere between 120 to 160 km/h. Once I'd arrived at my destination the CPS and engine light was ON and the car was shaking in Neutral. At that moment I knew some thing was wrong but since both indication were OFF when I restarted the car I thought I could nurse the baby back home and into my usual VW Service Center. But the engine shake was still there even after the next morning.

Things got worst when I got home the following day and went for a short waterfall trip some 60 km away - hey it was a long weekend and I honestly thought it was a minor issue. Coming back from the trip the car just suddenly lost its punch to accelerate beyond 80 km/h. It can still move but it feels like driving a beat up Benz that needed a push while climbing a small hill.

Drove it to my usual Service Center - which I just went last month for a regular service cycle that cost me RM 700-ish, and the service advisor immediately told me the car has 'No compression'. Which could mean anything and he needed the car to check what was causing this it. I knew immediately this will not be an easy fix based on his gesture of rubbing this forehead every few seconds and trying to put on a straight and calm face.

I'm sick and I need a transplant

The Golf that I had was a Mark 6 that had the fancy 1.4 TSI engine, which meant it had a supercharger and turbo (also known as a twincharger) to give it some kick at low revs and the power of a 2.0 engine. Before I move any further let me say that, I love the car because of that engine. Even my wife thinks she's faster then Sebastian Vettle! It is so insanely awesome that it won International Engine of the Year award when it came out. Even though VW has stop making them on the new Mark 7, most judges still prefer the Mark 6 engine to the new Mark 7 engine. Who can blame them the new Mark 7 doesn't have a supercharger, just a turbo engine.

vw golf milage

...mine happened at around 40,500 km

No compression can be cause by many things, but base on reports from Germany, UK, Australia and our very country the culprit points to a piston failure. Each case is always the same, the service center will tell the owner there is 'No compression' because one of the four pistons has failed and it will happen at a low mileage, mine happened at around 40,500 km. In my case the third piston was not working - which explains why the engine was shaking vigorously which I felt from the inside of the car. Kind of reminds me of my old Kelisa with its nifty 3 cylinder engine.

Many forums will point to unscientific reasons for why this happens, but the simple matter is that this Mark 6 engine has a serious problem - which VW is not telling it's customers. It is so serious that VW said it was too complex to manufacture and they develop a new engine for the Mark 7 - more like the old one breaks down a lot if you ask me. And NO, our low fuel grade is not causing this because even the Germans and British with their Euro 5 fuel have the same problem too.

The best fix for this is to get a new engine and not simply replacing the parts in the engine. However stories from local forum members point out that it will be highly unlikely to even get a new replacement engine (looks like the forum thread on VW Club Malaysia just disappeared for the entire 2012, guess you have to take my word for it) here in Malaysia. Fortunately for me the service advisor told me my ride needed a new engine. Hooray! Well not so fast, even after replacing the engine there is no guarantee that the problem will not return, after all it is the same engine technology that they are replacing the old one with.

Let's talk about warranty... Ops I meant insurance

In Malaysia VW sells their cars with a 5 year warranty and unlimited mileage. Sounds awesome, right? Well not quite. Actually, the first 2 years is covered by VW and the remaining 3 years is covered by Allianz - you can't run away from the Germans even if you tried. If you already have a VW (or planning to get one) you'd say 'So whats the big deal? The car is still covered under warranty what!'

Well its a shitty deal! If your car is more than 2 years, like mine and which will be covered by Allianz, breaks down and needs a repair then you have to deal with the stupidly long bureaucratic red tape of the Malaysian insurance industry. Not even a well tune and efficient German insurer - read Allianz, can't cure this disease within the industry.

Like any normal insurance claim where you need you car to be repaired, the typical workflow would be as follows:

  1. The workshop reports to the insurance company.
  2. Insurance company will send down an adjuster to the workshop to take a look at the car.
  3. Ask the workshop to do an estimate of the repair and send it to the insurance company.
  4. Wait for some short dwarf in a black suit at the insurance company to approve the estimate - if not approve the workshop will need to send another estimate.
  5. Repair the car.
  6. Drive out of the workshop.

Well I don't have a problem with the workflow, but I do have a bone to pick at the speed the insurance company does things. Its like some how they collectively hired the slowest people on the planet to work for them.

What actually happened

Let me describe my horrible ordeal in weeks.

  1. Week 1 - Sent the car to the usual certified service center to have my car checked. They confirm with me there is no compression and the 3rd piston was not moving at all. Sent a report to Allianz to have an adjuster to look at the car. vw golf milage
  2. Week 2 - No adjuster available to see the car. No date was given.
  3. Week 3 - I start my 3 weeks overseas assignment. The adjuster wants to see the car before the mechanic can even touch the car. A date was set some time this week.
  4. Week 4 - Adjuster saw the car and then ask the mechanic to remove the engine and set another date to open the engine together with him.
  5. Week 5 - The engine was open in front of the adjuster and told the service center to do an estimate.
  6. Week 6 - Went to the SC unannounced and saw the car without no engine - should have taken a picture. SC sent estimate to Allianz for repair approval. It was something around RM 30,000. The big ticket item was a New Base Engine for RM 23,000-ish. The service center accidentally showed me the estimate when I walk in unannounced. vw golf milage

    The big ticket item was a New Base Engine for RM 23,000-ish

  7. Week 7 - Repair estimate finally approve after I called the person responsible at Allianz twice in one week. I'm pretty sure if I didn't called she wouldn't have touch my case.
  8. Week 8 - Waiting for parts. The service center actually ordered the parts back in week 6 after sending the estimate to Allianz. The new engine came all the way from Germany.
  9. Week 9 - Engine arrived at the beginning of the week and started the repair.
  10. Week 10 - They called and told me the car might be ready at the end of the week, finally. However on Friday they called back and wanted a few more days and I can pick it up on Wednesday.... bummer. I told them to get it ready by Monday!
  11. Week 11 - Monday came and they told me I can only pick it up on Wednesday as they said last week. New engine has been installed but now they are replacing the mechatronic and will be done on Wednesday. Wednesday morning went there, car was still not done - battery flat and it was not even washed. Was told to pick it up on Thursday, arrgghhh. Before leaving with the car on Thursday I had to pay for items that was not covered under warranty, like engine oil and battery. vw golf milage

    ...it was not even washed

vw golf milage

...pay for items that was not covered under warranty, like engine oil and battery

It took 11 long weeks to get my car fix! That's like paying the car loan for almost 3 months and not being able to use the car. It feels like paying protection money for your business to an ah-long and at the same time have your shop renovated with no profit coming in.

In truth the Allianz could have speed things up, by sending in an adjuster in the 1st week and do the whole remove engine and then open it up in front of him drama in the same week. Also the approval could have also be done in the same week. Yet it took 2 weeks - could have been longer if I haven't called, just for them to say YES for the repair.

Fault is not just with Allinz alone, I also have a bone to pick with VW's Service Center. Simply put they could have speed things up as well by prioritizing repair works. It took them more then 2 weeks to put a new engine inside my car and do all the checks. Now either they work at snail speed or they drink too much tea time and have a gazillion tea break sessions. When I was there at week 6 most of of their mechanics were not there, they were out for lunch. I know everyone has to eat, but why can't they do it in shifts, a few guys go out at 12pm come back an hour later and then few guys go out at 1pm. It might be a small adjustment but if you could get a car done 2 hours or even an hour earlier, then customers will definitely be happier.

Speaking of poor service operations, they change my mechatronic unit again and decided to do it at the end of the repair! The first time it happened I did it at another SC which was closer to home, which was a year earlier. After 2 weeks of repair and putting in the new engine they decided to replace the mechatronic unit again, according to them it was part of VW's replacement campaign. The thing that bugs me was that they had 8 weeks to decide on the mechatronic and they did nothing before the new engine arrived or when they were working on the new engine! When I called on Monday in Week 11, the SC advisor told me the car is done with the new engine and now they want to replace the mechatronic as part of the replacement campaign. It took them 2 weeks to install the engine and no one had the time to replace the mechatronic... unbelievable!

Tips

If your experiencing the same thing, no you don't need to own a VW, or you already have a VW park in your porch, here are a few tips to expedite or eliminate your worries.

  1. Never buy - if you already own one sell, a VW Golf Mark 6 1.4 TSI (for those planning to get a used Golf).
  2. Ask for a replacement car the moment you hear 'No compression' and warranty covered by Allianz.
  3. Service the car at an authorize VW service center on time either 15,000km or before 1 year. Allianz has a strict policy in order for the car to be covered for additional 3 years.
  4. Get the number of the person in charge at Allianz or your car. Its the same person who your service advisor talks to. Be nice and put on a sad face (not angry) to your service advisor, they might just give you the person's number without a any fuss. I know I got mine.
  5. Once you get the number call them every day until they send an adjuster and approve your claim. The important thing here is force them to set a date on all the activities; sending in an adjuster and claim approval. I only did this in week 6 when I got back from my business trip.
  6. Give them (I mean Allianz) a hard time if they miss a date. Even to the extent of wait on the line and have them send an email to the service advisor while you hear them clicking frantically on the keyboard.
  7. Get a Japanese car instead. The new Mazda 3 looks sweet.
  8. Be nice to your Service Advisor, it does help. Although I wanted to scream at him at Week 11 on Wednesday for not having my car done. In the end I smiled and said to myself "Sabar itu separuh dari Iman, screaming at his incompetence will not get my car out today... so just smile and come back tomororw"

Am I keeping it?

I'll never buy a German car but for now I might just keep the Golf for a year or before the warranty expires. After that I am seriously thinking of selling it off. I might focus on reliability for the next car and go Japanese, like I said the new Mazda 3 looks drop dead gorgeous and it has more tech then the Golf Mark 7.

'I love the Golf, but I would never own one beyond the warranty period'

-Joshua Dowling, Cars Guide Australia-

I hope you don't have a problem with your ride like I did. If you do have a problem I hope the tips will help your situation and don't be like the guys in the forums. All the negativity that I read towards VW SC on forums and even on VW Malaysia's Facebook page is sometimes unwarranted. They're just normal people too, you treat them with respect and like a human being then they'll probably surprise you. Throughout the entire 11 weeks I never shouted, punch or scream at anyone from the SC or Allianz. Like a Vulcan, I simply use logic, patient and try to reason my way - besides they also don't want to see or talk to you every week its very stressful. In return I got a new engine (which rarely happens, as normally they will just replace parts), got the number of the person at Allianz, got the see my car with a big hole and no heart (where normally they don't allow customers to enter their service bay) and got to see how much the repair cost.

Having said all that, I do agree with many VW owners out there - VW needs to sort their after sales problems quickly. If Naza could do it with Peugeot, certainly the Germans must have some thing in place that they could use. After all they are a nation known for efficiency and at the moment in Malaysia they are not even remotely close to achieving this. If this poor service from their SC continues word will get out and sooner or later it will be like what happened to Proton a decade or two ago. Funny how a few years ago VW tried to buy Proton and everyone was looking forward to it, except Proton. Maybe Proton engineers, managers and operations executive knew a few things that we are about to discover now.

It is apparent that VW doesn't have an unified database on the cars that they sell. My car got a new mechatronic - although it didn't need one, which I gladly accepted and VW wasted money on to replace it. I honestly think VW Malaysia simply does not care about how much money they burn on after sales and all they care about is getting a bigger market share. It seems like the people who are working at VW Malaysia came from Sales and no one cared to looked at operations. I truly hope for their sake VW to put in a proper operations man because whoever is there now is not listening to their customers and sitting in his chair drinking tea by the barrels.

Also why in the world VW didn't just recall the entire Mark 6 (or my batch) and have it checked? I think they got no balls to do it after the DSG fiasco. Another recall will certainly hurt them big time. As for Allianz your will never see me as your customer ever.

In the end I think Joshua Dowling from Cars Guide Australia summed it up best on how I feel right now and my emotional state towards my car, "I love the Golf, but I would never own one beyond the warranty period".

Update: The guys at VW Club Malaysia said their server crash and they lost most of the threads for 2012. That was the reason why I couldn't find the thread on VW's SC reluctance in replacing the entire engine.

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