Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Volkswagen Steering Column problem

This blog is about how I handled a car problem.


Here is the chronology of events. A Volkswagen Vento (petrol or gasoline model) was bought from Sundaram Motors in Chennai in April 2011. The original owner sold the car in 2013. I bought the car from a reputed used car dealer in December 2013.


In March 2015, we noticed a tightening of the steering wheel. An effort was needed to turn the steering. It began to stick. We took the car to Sundaram Motors for scheduled maintenance. We asked the Service Department to take a look at the problem. We were told that the steering was absolutely fine.


Move the clock forward. It is July 2015. We get drivers from the Top Four service in Chennai. I am not able to drive in Chennai. Driver after driver, without being asked, told us that there was a problem with the  steering. As the steering was turned, right or left, we could hear ‘tick tick tick.’ We feared  that the steering could pose a safety issue.


We found out that the battery was failing. A new battery was installed. Our car has an electro-magnetic steering.  My fond hope was that the new battery was what the doctor had ordered and that it would correct the steering. I was not lucky. The problem did not go away.


Soon after, the car was taken to Sundaram Motors. The car was kept for three days. Then the verdict was delivered. 

The entire steering column had to be replaced. The cost was about 65,000 Rupees. I asked Sundaram Motors if I could get help in view of the fact that the car had been on the road for a little over four years. The steering column is not a part that is subject to ‘wear and tear’ like a tire or a belt. Further, in a car like Volkswagen, having a serious problem with the steering column in a span of four years from the time of sale, is not a good advertisement for the brand. Above all, the car had only 20,000 kilometres. My plea fell on deaf years.


I sent an email to Volkswagen’s main office in Germany. A reply came in a matter of hours. “We want to help you. We want to keep you as a customer. It is difficult for us to make decisions from here. We are instructing our Mumbai office to take up your predicament with the Chennai dealer. We assure you that Volkswagen will do everything possible to resolve the issue in keeping with our standards and to your satisfaction.”


I received an email from Mumbai.  I got a call from Sundaram Motors. I was asked to bring the car to the dealer for inspection. After a (test) drive, the problem was confirmed.  Mr Srinivasan, the Customer Satisfaction Manager, and Mr Sudhakar, Service Manager, met me. I explained my situation. They listened patiently. I was promised that some help will be offered and a decision will be conveyed in two weeks.


The two-week time frame passed. I called and began to put (gentle) pressure. Mr Srinivasan sent an email. “Sundaram  Motors will meet you halfway. If you  paid 50% of the bill, the steering column will be replaced. There will be a two year warranty on the work done.”


My wife and I agreed. The car was taken to the dealer on a Tuesday morning. The repair was done. I picked up the car late Wednesday. The car has been handled by one Top Four driver. He gave the steering a clean bill of health.


Mr Srinivasan called to find out what was happening. We expressed our satisfaction.


What is the lesson? Do not give up. Sundaram Motors could have given me the 50-50 deal but it was done only after Germany (main office) got involved. If there are avenues you can take, please explore them. Be polite but firm. Our perseverance paid off.


Mr Srinivasan, I would now like to call him the Customer Extreme Satisfaction Manager, was very helpful. My wife and I express our appreciation.          

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