Living with & maintaining a German car: An owner’s honest perspective

My Jetta has always been driven carefully and treated with a lot of care. As an automobile it is excellent – feels as good as new after 9.5 years and 1,16,000 km later.

BHPian Redline6800 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

I don’t think German engineering is superior, just different based on their driving requirements. Japanese cars are eminently sensible to buy own and operate over decades, something European cars of late do not seem to be able to do.

A Japanese car can be abused and still remain reliable, whereas nearly every European brand car needs to be pampered, etc to remain reliable past the 10-15 year mark. The same is true of Hyundai, I feel, many people have told me they get more expensive to own as they age, which is not really the case with Honda and Toyota.

The real worry with owning a European car is the crap service. As these complex cars get older, my experience is that the showroom itself is unable to look after these cars beyond the basic oil change, blah blah.

For those of us, who live in the real world with real responsibilities and commitments, the potential of a European sedan breaking down and getting less than stellar response from the dealer is a real possibility and can be very very frustrating. If you can have only one car, my choice would always be Japanese.

My Honda City 1.5 Exi turned 23 this month, I have never had to worry about this car at all. The showroom support (Whitefield Honda BLR) has always been exceptional. I can do whatever I want this car with nary a care in the world. All parts were available at the showroom until last year.

Compare this with my 2013 VW Jetta, brought pre-worshipped in 2018 from a TBHPian . It has always been driven carefully and treated with a lot of care. As an automobile it is excellent – feels as good as new after 9.5 years and 1,16,000 km later.

I would drive it all the way to Mysore from Bangalore for service, cause the same service advisor was there from when the car was 1 day old. This was a time consuming endeavour – but since I planned to keep the car till the end of the decade, I was happy spending two days every year on its service.

Despite the showroom folks knowing me and the car – these were the incidents I faced:

April 2021:

Accident repair on the roof and doors, following a tree falling on my car.

Repair work- roof repaint and RHS doors and quarter panel repaint was done well.

During the same service, they broke my RHS power mirror knob – they accepted it was their fault and said would replace it at their expense. I assumed that the replacement would be the same as what was broken and accepted without any written documentary proof.

March 2021:

The roofliner, which had never had an issue till then, started bubbling within weeks of the repair work. Shared a picture with the service advisor, he said he would sort it. But due to COVID-19 couldn’t go back.

I accept it was my fault not going back there as soon as I could to this fixed. But based on my Honda experience, I assumed VW would do the right thing and fix the issue.

The whole of 2022 was quite hectic and with the car running having reduced, I delayed the service, but the roof liner was now sagging more and more.

January 2023:

Went for service and accident repair.

A biker had hit my parked car and again RHS doors were damaged and RHS mirror lens was broken.

The service guys now said the roofliner was not their issue and said sagging of roofliner was a common issue with all Jetta cars. Would cost INR 50,000 for new one. I was willing to accept some portion of the blame for delaying taking the car back sooner for the roof issue, but I doubt their response would have been any different.

I had a chat with the Service manager and asked extra care be taken for my car, as I was coming all the way from BLR. I felt having met the service manager, the work would be done properly.

I received the car with the following issues – the inside of rear RHS door paint was chipped during the repair, they had replaced the power window knob with one that looks its from Taigun and feels very cheap to use compared to what Jetta came with. The SA I had now known for 4 years was acting very shifty when I would meet him.

When I got home and tried to fold the RHS mirror it got stuck and passed on this message to service team. Said SA said they had tested it before giving it to me and could not understand, why this had happened. I was pissed off – but again kicked myself for not checking the car even more thoroughly. Both mirrors were open, when I took delivery the car and I only checked them for tilt/sideways and not folding. Since I had not had an issue with mirror folding then. I only needed to fold the mirror, when I got home and parked.

I was stupid enough to go back to them to get the roof liner sorted and they gave me a 5% discount. Yeah, I know am a sucker for punishment. My 23 years with Honda had made me realise the value of authorised spares and wanted my roofliner to be from VW and not a local one.

Regarding the mirror, they now said the whole RHS mirror mechanism was damaged and would cost INR 10,000 to replace the entire mirror casing.

If this had been checked and done during the accident repair, then insurance would have taken care of some portion as it was a plastic part. Now it would be a separate claim and deductible.

Again they acknowledged their mistake and asked me to come back and they would fix it with some discount on the part.

The inside of rear RHS door was repainted FOC.

Regardless to say, I wont be going back to them again. I hope my roofliner lasts 5 years. though honestly I have no confidence in their work.

This is the level of service for a 9.5 year old car that cost 25L new.

So to summarise, if you are keeping a car from new till 6-7 years – no worries on Hyundai – VW/Skoda. but beyond that be prepared for some heartache.

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