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Volkswagen Dealership Dissatisfaction in Charleston South Carolina

Well, I knew once I started traveling that I would run into the issue of VW dealership dishonesty and incompitence. Today, I found both in Charleston SC.

If you drive a Volkswagen (VW) and you are ever in Charleston South Carolina, you will unfortunately have no place to get your VW serviced. At least, you cannot count on finding a good VW dealership that will take good care of you and stand behind their product with any degree of fairness, or competence.

There are only two dealerships in the Charleston area. Unfortunately, I had heard terrible things about one dealership just in passing. Low Country Volkswagen, in Mt. Pleasant, had a horrible reputation. On the other hand, I had heard nothing bad about Stokes VW in nearby Charleston SC, who I discovered on the Internet. And since Low Country was definitely out as an option, that left Stokes as my only other choice. So, I approached the situation with caution. After all, Stokes VW did not know me, nor I them, and we did not have a track record of trust to build upon. This would be our first shot at doing business together. Whether or not it would be a good experience was anybodies guess.

I arrived at Stokes VW at 830 AM today. I spoke with the Service Assistant named James. James was a very affable guy; very nice and extremely professional. I took him out to my car, showed him the mods that I had, discussed the history of the car and explained to him what I wanted done to my car. We went inside and discussed price and they told me they could do the job for $250.00. I asked why it was so much and they told me it was a 2.5 hour job at $75.00 an hour. To be fair, it was more involved than a simple oil change, so I agreed on his terms without much haggling.

They asked me what sort of oil I wanted, which I thought was peculiar because the manual is very specific and there is only one weight of pure synthetic that it will take, and only a handful of brands that are VW approved. Shouldn’t a VW service dept know this? This should have been my first warning. But I pressed forward because short of driving back to Lynchburg 10 hours, I had no other options that were more appealing.

They took my car in shortly after 9 AM and began work. At 9:40 AM they came into the lobby and pulled me aside, informing me that they were unfamiliar with the Haldex rear drive portion of the car, which had a filter and oil that needed changing every 20K miles. They said it would cost an additional $150.00! So, what began as a $250.00 job, quickly went to $400.00 in just under 40 minutes.

To add insult to injury, they informed me that it was necessary to order the Haldex oil and Haldex filter because they did not stock the items at the dealership. This seemed odd to me, because the R32 has been out for nearly a year and yet they seemed very perplexed by the car. So far they had displayed confusion regarding the oil used in the car, confusion regarding the work required to complete the 20K mile servicing and a lack of parts basic to an R32 20K mile servicing. I was getting very concerned.

James told me it would take 3 days to get the parts. They did not even OFFER to overnight it for me. I had to ask for that, and they were going to charge me for the added cost as well. Nevertheless, I asked for overnight delivery. They told me to call the next day before I came out, because they could not be certain the parts would arrive over night. Huh?? FedEx guarantees overnight delivery. Is FedEx subject to a different set of laws of physics in this area of the USA? Do their planes fly slower? Are their trucks saddled with mechanical problems in the Southeast that they are not experiencing anywhere else in the USA? Again, I say, “Huh?” But I digress.

Stokes initially wanted to charge me for the full 3.5 hours labor, but I refused to pay for it. Instead, I paid for the half-job that they did that day. And here is the kicker:

They had worked on my car for only 1 hour today, and charged me for 2.5 hours, to the tune of $187.50 labor charges alone!

I went back to my hotel and thought about this. I called Terry VW in Lynchburg to tell them what happened and to ask their opinion as to whether the charges seemed reasonable them. Terry told me that the job was a 1.5 hour job on their end. They told me that the Haldex filter and oil change was due every 40K miles, not every 20K miles, as Stokes was telling me. In fact, the VW web site says the same thing: Haldex clutch oil change every 40K miles. What Stokes was doing was referencing a bulletin that suggested that the Haldex oil should be changed every 20K miles, but that the maintenance needed to be referred back to. So, this was a confusing issue. And Stokes was simply flummoxed. They seemed ill prepared, they seemed unsure, they seemed untrained and I had absolutely no confidence in them whatsoever.

The final straw that broke the camels back was that upon returning to my hotel and doing just a tiny bit of internet research on my own, I was able to find out that for a successful Haldex filter and oil change, you need a special wrench to remove the filter. I could see the writing on the wall. So, I called James at Stokes VW at 2 PM to inform them of this potential problem, because I could just see myself going out there the next day and hearing Stokes tell me that they did not have the wrench. I wanted them to confirm this information ASAP and order the part so they could have the part ready the next day. Well, James told me to call him back in 20 minutes. I decided to give him a few hours to see what he would do.

Needless to say, they did not call me back. Nor did they research my claim until late in the day. I called them at 5:30 PM and James told me that he did not have such a wrench in the service department and that it would need to be ordered. This would mean I would have to stay in a hotel another 2-3 days in Mt Pleasant. It would set me back in my travels. It would set me back another $200.00 for a grand total of $600.00. And on top of that it would all be for a job that may or may not need to be done at 20K miles. All because Stokes was poorly trained and unwilling to go even a fraction of the needed distance to research the repair job fully.

In short, it’s the dealers responsibilities to know their cars, whether they have sold them or not. I believe VW has tech training and certifications for each vehicle/engine type that they sell (and for what it is worth they only have a few to begin with, not a huge fleet of cars and trucks like Dodge or Ford), so there really is no excuse. Not selling any R32s is no excuse for knowing nothing about the car if you are a Volkswagen Dealer. The VW dealer is suppose to be the final word on all things VW. That is why VWoA will only license them, and not other auto repair shops. Moreover, it’s not like the dealer can say “I’m not a Volkswagen dealer, I’m a Jetta/Passat/Golf/GTI/NB and Toureg dealer, sorry.” They have the responsibility of knowing their products inside and out.

All I can say is that Stokes VW has one of the least competent service departments available.

The people in the service department are courteous, polite and friendly, yes. But they are also poorly trained on their products, poorly prepared for jobs and charge exorbitant fees for jobs that can be done much more affordably.

Spend your money elsewhere.


December 13, 2004 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. When the last time I took my VW for its schedule maintenance, I took it to a VW service provider where the technician asked me several questions about the car and took it for a test drive. It took him hardly three hours to fix the problems that it had. And, after that service I was surprised to find that my car was running as smoothly as any new car. So, I feel that before the technicians fix any problem, they should ask the owner about the problems associated with that car so that they can find out the actual cause of trouble.

    Comment by Ft. Lauderdale VW Service | May 28, 2009

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