Why was my local Audi garage keen to offer goodwill when repairing an ESP fault on my A3?

My 2007 Audi A3 is less than four years old, has done less than 34,000 miles and has a full Audi service history. Last week the ESP warning light came on so I tried to book an appointment with my local Audi dealership, when I was told that it wouldn't be a serious safety issue, and that it would be fine for them to look it over in a couple of weeks. Happily reassured, I left it at that, before calling again a couple of days later to see if any time slots had become available, which luckily they had. Unfortunately it appeared that there was a fault with the ABS control unit, and it would cost a tidy £1,000 to replace. After they saw my jaw drop to the floor, they mentioned that Audi could make a goodwill gesture towards half the cost.

While I somewhat appreciated this gesture, I couldn't help feeling there was something fishy about the speed at which the price was halved - quite literally a matter of seconds and I tried to leave. Except, they wouldn't let me. After initially telling me that there couldn't possibly be a serious problem and that a fortnight's wait would pose no harm, the garage insisted it was not in a safe state to drive, and would not give me back my keys until I had signed a waiver absolving them of any liability. I had no choice but to sign, but it felt like a rather cheap sales trick. When I read online about VAG offering to cover the full cost of many replacements of cars much older than mine, and checked the manual for any indications that a lack of ABS was inherently unsafe (actually, it specifically tells you not to rely on ABS for safety purposes) it felt even more like a tactic to force me to commit to buying the replacement part there and then. Am I going mad?

Asked on 2 November 2010 by DP, via email

Answered by Honest John
VAG is now electing to replace hydraulic section containing the G201 sensor rather than replace the entire ABS/ESP module, which makes the job a lot cheaper and enables the company to be more generous.
The ESP pressure sensor fault only affects the ESP, not the ABS, and you don't really need ESP unless you habitually drive too fast in wet conditions. It can actually make cars more dangerous in ice and snow.
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