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Volkswagen’s DSG transmission warranty extension plan criticized

By Li Xiaoshu (Global Times)

08:23, May 29, 2012

Car owners and auto insiders in China yesterday criticized Volkswagen's latest warranty extension plan for its problematic direct shift gearbox (DSG), saying that the German automaker has ignored core issues raised on the transmission's quality.

Analysts also noted yesterday that the warranty extension is luring consumers to frequently maintain the transmission at its authorized dealerships, which may end up costing about 20 billion yuan ($3.17 billion) to owners in maintenance-related charges, despite the warranty.

"The long-awaited solution is not effective enough to guarantee that the company will remove all potential safety hazards caused by the dual-clutch gearbox," senior independent auto analyst Zhang Zhiyong told the Global Times yesterday.

Despite facing pressure from quality watchdogs, the media and the public in China, the company has neither admitted drawbacks of the DSG technology nor proved that the technology is flawless, according to Zhang.

"The automaker has merely taken ad hoc measures to restore customers' confidence amid mounting complaints and buy time to improve the transmission's R&D," he noted.

Besides, warranty extension is more likely to ultimately benefit the brand's dealerships instead of substantially solving a quality problem, said a report released by auto portal gagoo.com yesterday based on surveys of more than 20 insiders and dealership executives.

"Car owners are not encouraged to get the gearbox checked at unauthorized repair centers or randomly reschedule its maintenance period," Dou Chuang, an after-sales service consultant with Beijing Deaoda Yizhong Automobile Sales Co, one of Volkswagen's largest dealerships, told the Global Times yesterday.

Maintaining the DSG transmission equipped in a 1.4-liter Volkswagen Golf sedan is expected to cost between 1,000 yuan and 2,000 yuan each time at the dealerships, said Dou.

More than 10 models and over 1 million vehicles are eligible for the prolonged warranty, Ma Jinghua, a spokeswoman at Volkswagen Group China, said Wednesday.

"Supposing each car undergoes maintenance once a year and the whole process lasts 10 years, the sum of maintenance fee could add up to as high as 20 billion yuan," Dou said.

"Volkswagen's compensation policies may violate consumers' right to freely choose from different products," a 1.4-liter Volkswagen Sagitar sedan owner surnamed Tian, told the Global Times yesterday.

However, Wang Feng, marketing director of FAW-Volkswagen Automobile Co, a joint venture between FAW Group Corporation and Volkswagen AG, believes the warranty policies are quite reasonable.

"Customers should react more objectively. Take the average service time of common transmissions and the advantages of DSG technologies into consideration," he said.

Volkswagen Group China and its two local joint ventures provided details Friday on DSG gearbox maintenance after the extension of the warranty to 10 years or 160,000 kilometers.

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