Are Volkswagens really as problematic as you say?

I know you question your loyalty to Volkswagen, but they can't all be that bad. I know a lot of people put in complaints about them, but there are a heck of a lot them out there; same as SEAT (reliability-wise, we are talking), which you sometimes recommend (and Skoda?). I still lament the loss, many years ago now, of Paul Ripley. His articles were unique as they were the only articles written in magazines or newspaper motoring sections that talked about the most important thing in cars. The driver. At least you do likewise, and mention driving, and training, safety, etc.

Asked on 22 April 2011 by WE, via email

Answered by Honest John
Like you, I still remember and apply many of the lessons of Paul Ripley. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s I was convinced that Volkswagens were somehow of superior quality to, for example, Fords. Quite a few of them passed through my hands. I used to work with an independent Volkswagen specialist. I just accepted that parts like an alternator, a fuel pump, a waterpump, a timing belt, a throttle cable, a clutch release bearing, a clutch and the numerous other bits that failed were worth replacing because the Volkswagen was a car "of superior quality.”

No greater misconception has ever been foisted on the UK motoring public. In the mid 1990s I switched from Volkswagens and Fiats to Fords, mainly Mondeos. And suddenly found I was buying and selling cars with which hardly anything went wrong. Between myself and my ex-wife we kept one particular ex-rental Mondeo for nine years and all that failed was a connection to the power steering pump (it did, of course, need one timing belt).

I likened the situation to Black and Decker v/s Bridges drills. My dad had a Bridges. I had a Black & Decker. After rebuilding a house both drills wore out. My dad sent his to Stanley Bridges to be reconditioned. I took mine to Black & Decker in Streatham to be reconditioned. Instead, the bloke behind the counter simply unscrewed the chuck, dumped the drill in a trash box, and screwed the chuck onto a new drill body for £10. Stanley Bridges = Volkswagen. Black & Decker = Ford. Even JC (that's Jeremy Clarkson) admits that in the 10 years he has owned a Ford Focus, nothing whatsoever has gone wrong with it.

Since I've been doing the Honest John job I've had about 650,000 letters and emails. And while it is true that people mostly write when they've got something to bitch about, and that expectations are probably higher of VAG products than of other makes, the level of complaint about VAG products and Volkswagen in particular far exceeds that for any other make.
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