Why were Skoda Assist so unhelpful when our Octavia broke down in France?

Please could you inform your readers of an experience we had in May of this year when travelling in France with our 2-year-old Skoda Octavia 1.4TSI. About 100 miles after leaving Calais we experienced an increasingly noisy engine with no warning lights, which was diagnosed at a Volkswagen agent to be a faulty water pump. The first problem we encountered was that Skoda Assist France telephone numbers in the driver’s handbook are not accessible from an Orange mobile phone, so we had to call back to Winchester Motor Company (where car was purchased) and ask them to arrange for Skoda Assist France to call us.

Skoda Assist then arranged a replacement vehicle very efficiently, so we left our vehicle on a Friday at the Volkswagen agent for a replacement Water Pump to be fitted under warranty. We returned to the Volkswagen agent on the Monday PM to find that the replacement pump had not arrived and we were also advised that it would not be a warranty claim, as the warranty period in France is only two years and not three as in the UK.

We requested Skoda Assist to extend the replacement vehicle hire and find us some accommodation for Monday night but they advised that we could only have one of these two so we contacted Winchester Motor Company again who declined to assist. When we returned to the Volkswagen agent on Tuesday there was still no replacement pump, in spite of me reluctantly agreeing to pay for the repair. I became very dissatisfied and demanded that Skoda Assist return us and our Skoda to the UK. A low loader subsequently arrived and took us to Calais, following which I drove the Skoda on and off the ferry. Our Skoda was repaired by Winchester Motor Company within 24 hours of our return. Skoda UK eventually repaid my expenses’ together with a goodwill gesture, but I have so far not persuaded them to make any changes to prevent future Skoda owners having a similar unpleasant experience.

Asked on 10 June 2012 by CG via e-mail

Answered by Honest John
SW of Eire also had less than satisfactory service from Skoda Assist in France. His Skoda Superb TDI 170 DSG Elegance Estate suffered a blocked EGR and went into limp-home mode, slowing its speed to a crawl. Skoda Assist sent two recovery drivers who did not understand the problem. Eventually SW got the car to a French Skoda dealer himself. It then took from 11.00 in the morning to 19.00 in the evening to get them to authorise a replacement hire car, which was not automatic and which his wife could not drive. (They had young children with them.)

Skoda Assist could then not make up its mind if the problem was covered by the three-year warranty. Eventually SW got Steve Cropley of Autocar involved, who kindly contacted Skoda Customer Service on his behalf. Despite promises to Steve, they did not arrange recovery. He needed to be towed to the ferry 340km away. Eventually SW gave up with Skoda and used his 'any car' European classic car breakdown cover to get him home. Weeks later, ‘What Car’ got involved and secured him £800 of compensation. I’d better add that some European breakdown rescue policies, surprisingly, exclude cooling system problems.
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