VW Will Improve Guidelines for Sludge Repairs

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By Ralph KisielAutomotive News / February 07, 2005

NEW ORLEANS — Volkswagen of America Inc. will work with dealers to develop less-stringent guidelines on free repairs for vehicles with oil-sludge problems.

Dealers have been asking VW for more lenient guidelines for owners who encounter problems with engine sludge even though they have maintained vehicles properly. The topic arose at VW’s make meeting.

"I think we’ll see the restrictions relaxed," said Bob Grace, chairman of the VW National Dealer Council. "The bottom line is we need to do the right thing."

In August, VW acknowledged oil sludge problems in some VW Passat and Audi A4 models. It has required customers to show proof that they followed factory recommendations on oil changes.

But sometimes VW owners who have been diligent about maintaining their vehicles don’t have all of their receipts, Grace said.

"VW will work with the dealer council – a collaborative effort – to come up with something less restrictive," he said.

Len Hunt, vice president in charge of the VW brand in the United States, said the guidelines should be formulated by the end of February. Hunt said he and Grace will inform dealers then.

"We’re going to find a happy medium," Hunt said. "We’re not going to cover repairs for someone who drives 80,000 miles without ever servicing the car. But for the owner who has done the reasonable thing, maybe missing one oil change, we will address that owner."

VW dealers also learned that VW will create a rapid-response team to smooth the March 19 launch of the redesigned 2005 Jetta.

"We need a successful launch of the Jetta," said Grace, of Southpoint Volkswagen in Baton Rouge, La. "All our hopes are pinned on it."

The Jetta is VW’s best-selling U.S. model.

"We’ve never had this kind of launch team. That’s pretty important to us," Grace said.

In the past, VW dealers had to endure a launch without getting vehicle owner manuals or other important point-of-sale information, Grace said.

VW’s team will have more than 30 quality engineers standing by to solve launch problems, including engineers from the Puebla, Mexico, plant where the Jetta is assembled, Hunt said.

"The idea is to fix it like lightning, should any problem arise," Hunt said.

Team members will be placed in VW headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich., and in cities where Jetta sells in high volumes, Hunt said.

VW also told dealers that it would work with them to develop new brand standards to replace the program that is expiring at year end. Dealers earn cash incentives for adopting the standards, which typically involve investing in exclusive dealerships, building and process improvements.