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Volkswagen UK boss admits to more than 16,000 complaints over ‘dieselgate emissions fix’

Paul Willis, outgoing MD of Volkswagen Group UK

Volkswagen's MD Paul Willis has revealed that the VW Group (UK) has received nearly 17,000 complaints in recent months about its dieselgate technical solution.

The so-called ‘emissions fix’ to reduce NOx emissions is being rolled out across Europe amid the ‘dieselgate’ scandal, but owners have been plagued with breakdowns and poor vehicle performance after the update has been carried out, according to the Volkswagen Diesel Customer Forum (DCF).

Following a request from Lilian Greenwood MP, the Transport Committee chair, Willis (pictured) admitted that VW Group UK's customer service unit has received over 16,900 complaints from owners whose vehicles have had the emissions fix installed.

READ MORE: Lillian Greenwood's letter to Volkswagen UK managing director Paul Willis 

Complaints include reduced MPG, broken exhaust gas recirculation valves and clogged diesel particulate filters, which they believe have occured since the technical measures.

This is despite claims on the company website stating that the software update “cannot cause any damage your vehicle”.

The DCF reports that, “owners have been voicing their scepticism at the claim for months after a series of identical technical issues blighted thousands of cars across the VW Group brands.”

But claims that the VW group continues to deny any link. It also accuses Paul Willis of refusing to provide either an explanation for the technical problems that are arising after the fix or proof that they are unrelated to the fix.

In his letter to Greenwood, Willis argues that the claims made against the technical fix are minimal, it reads: "It is important to bear in mind that the technical measures have been implemented in over six million vehicles across Europe amd om pver 819,000 vehicles in the UK. The vast majority of customers have been satisfied with the technical measures."

READ MOREPaul Willis' reply to Transport Committee chair Lillian Greenwood

Willis repeatedly quotes that the German KBA tested the fix, but as one anonymous owner from the Volkswagen Diesel Customer Forum, a Facebook support group that has seen its membership swell to over 6,600 members, notes: “There is no proof that the KBA did long-term, on-road testing on higher mileage vehicles to disprove the link to the breakdowns, meanwhile cars are breaking down driving off the garage forecourt straight after the fix”.

“There are clearly problems with the fix as VW is now rolling out updated versions of the software, which only highlights that things were not right from the start.”

The Diesel Customer Forum is now pointing fingers at VW Group dealers who it accuses of not providing customers with accurate information up-front about the fix.

A recent poll of over forum 230 members identified that none were advised by their dealer that the fix would cause more soot to be generated or that the diesel particulate filter would need to regenerate more, otherwise it would light up DPF warnings on the dashboard. 

DCF said some dealers have privately said to forum members that they were not told by VW Group what the fix will do to cars, and are now trying to explain the breakdowns.

DCF founder Gareth Pritchard said: “Worryingly for owners is that, so far 820,000 cars have had the emissions software update in the UK yet not one owner has had it explained to them what the fix does to our cars.

“It’s very easy in those circumstances for VW to deny there is an issue when won’t tell us what has been changed or how our cars should be operating. 

“We know there are a lot of angry owners experiencing identical issues and VW won’t explain what is going on. 

"I suspect the 17,000 complaints is underestimating the scale of the issue as not everyone will feel compelled to write.

“Volkswagen Group states that in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal ‘every single customer is important to us. If that’s true, then VW needs to be more open and honest.

“We need to know what’s been done to our cars, dealers need to get their facts straight and VW needs to find a cure for the problems.  If the fix is as good as VW claims, then not a single complaint would have been raised.”

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  • S.MACLAREN - 13/12/2017 23:05

    This article sticks to the facts, unlike VW senior management, which has played fast and loose with the truth all along. The Volkswagen Diesel Customer Forum (Facebook) I am a member of has highlighted and clearly identified the duplicitous response from VW towards its UK customers. First, they admitted breaking the law in the US, where the software defeat device was used to prevent too much NOx during TESTING on the rolling road (not running the car on the open road). Those of you who think you might get the fix fitted, don't. Please do not have it done. This is not a mandatory recall. If you were thinking you should get it done, you will regret it. Even if it was (the VOSA styled letters they sent out are very deceptive), there would be a good case for refusal, based on the fact that the problem is nowhere near resolved. If, as we suspect, the software used in Europe is of the same type, and carries out the same or similar function as the U.S.A. customers' cars (and it appears that it does do this, as shown by the testing labs) then VW most certainly broke the law everywhere the cars have been sold, not just in the U.S.A. This calls the effectiveness of the single trade area of the EU (single market) into question, where at least one large corporate can break the law and be prosecuted in the States, but not be prosecuted for this crime when clearly breaking it in its home country. The EU commission's duplicitous behaviour in this is noted. For the Dieselgate investigation on VW vehicles, what we know now is that in various retests by independent labs, it is demonstrable that standard test conditions trigger the same observed response in the European engines. The law is being broken for these tests. Why is there no move to act on behalf of owners, let alone the supposed environmental impact which some seem, laughably, more concerned about (yet cars which are de-tuned to reduce NOx will produce MORE not less total emissions, burning more fuel to do the same work - the whole charade is a engineer's laugh-a-minute of bad design caused by badly thought through legislation. We should note that the use of the cheat device emphatically does NOT mean that the cars are somehow dirtier when running on the road than they should be (though this may still be true and open road NOx limits require to be checked for each model); it just means that the cars effectively cheated the indoor test protocol, which was always wide open to abuse from the pathetic lack of oversight, from in-country EU member test centres marking their own exam paper. Lunacy, or what? Other reading I have done, suggests there have been a number of reports, both European and UK based, which does identify that the EU road running emission limits are being infringed by all manufacturers of diesel cars, for at least some of their engine test cycle. Someone turned a blind eye, and the consumer is the loser at present in Europe. What VW owners have not had revealed to them (as pointed out by the VW Diesel Customer Forum's founder Gareth Pritchard) is what the software fix does which supposedly removes the cheat device. Some of us suspect, logically, from the problems that it has caused us first hand, that the software 'fixed' engines have been de-tuned for cooler fuel burning and reducing efficiency of combustion, causing extra smoke (admitted by VW), but (yes) in a round-about way also reducing NOx per mile. To what end is this fix if it actually drives up total emissions, including CO2? One word: Politics! Political expediency. The fix was only provided by VW to demonstrate to the EU national governments that VW has kept the letter of the law and removed the cheat device. But, some of us suspect that in order to do this, they have paid little attention to the proper testing required on open road running performance. VW claimed they had tested thousands of engines before rolling it out. I say that this testing was cynically insufficient, since, after rolling the fix out to over 800,000 UK engines now, there have been over 17,000 reported problems, with more appearing every day. That is now an admitted figure of well over 2% of the installation (VW please note), and this is A HUNDRED TIMES the number originally admitted by VW earlier this year, when they stated in writing that they believed " less than 0.02% of the ..completed cases" were affected. Owners who were hood-winked into doing what they believed was the right thing, now discover the car's reliability is shot to pieces, and even the safety of their once reliable car is affected, with power loss and breaking down on the motorway now commonplace, and being stung for a bill for the privilege of waiting to get it sorted out. Some who have suffered failures and had them corrected, have then had further failures of expensive parts. Notwithstanding the fact that VW has offered to meet the costs of maintenance for some drivers' problems, UNLESS this actually corrects the problem, and it does not return, these victims are going to be continually out of pocket, which is the one fact that makes our blood boil with fury. These are frankly, cynical, minimal efforts by VW to meet 'the letter' of the foolish EU rules, and without proper efforts (costing them more money) to establish what problems might potentially - result from their sloppy roll-out of a supposed fix. - Not so much a fix as a 'Fix-Fail', so this is what we have called it. It also smacks of further abuse of their position as a powerful car manufacturer, as they have been allowed to sell us something which is not fit for purpose (a rushed out, unproven modification), does not have a stated performance level (not even the economy is stated, let alone what new NOx levels are achievable). How can the DARE to call it a corrective service? We have to trust them, and hope. But we don't. We are not so stupid.. The other sadness of this whole affair is that basically, the VW cars affected are generally the cleanest of many manufactures, and this has been publicly admitted in a report by Greg Archer, published in Belgium in September 2016. Greg Archer's bombastic and reactionary report is very emotively written (which is frankly unprofessional), mixes the facts, and generally talks down to diesel technology,. which of course is here to stay. Nothing on earth in the modern world would work without it, and marine diesel total emissions in shipping have been estimated as possibly higher than the total emissions of cars on the whole planet. Archer also appears ignorant of the fact that equally large amounts of NOx come from modern petrol engines (which have not as yet been assessed with the same level of scrutiny as far as I know). He also -notably- does not define the problem of what he calls 'dirty cars' scientifically, and forgets completely about the seriously damaging carcinogenic benzenes thrown out of the back of gasoline engine exhausts when the engine is running cold. He is biased.

    • S.MACLAREN - 13/12/2017 23:12

      Attempting to insert paragraphs in the above was not recognised when posting. Apologies!

    • S.MACLAREN - 13/12/2017 23:12

      Attempting to insert paragraphs in the above was not recognised when posting. Apologies!