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by Daniel DeGasperi

Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) has admitted that it needs to resolve customer service issues more quickly, while committing to measures that will improve dealer engagement with buyers.

“I do acknowledge that part of the challenges that we’ve had as we’ve increased our sales has been dealing from a customer satisfaction perspective,” told VGA managing director John White at the local launch of the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7 this week.

“One of the things that we have come to the realisation is that we’ve had very very significant growth over the past few years. One of the things we need to do is to have our dealer network and our infrastructure catch up to us.

“Specifically what are we doing differently right now? Well, number one is that we acknowledge that we need to have a quicker resolution of customer issues.”

He implored the attending media to come to him or the local PR team directly with issues customers or readers may have emailed in with to “make sure we’re on top of that”.

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“We’ve installed what we call a ‘customer first’ manager,” he continued. “And we are in the process of bringing in very clear and specific standards for all dealers to follow with a strong focus on training and qualification, focusing on increasing our servicing capacity to better service customers.

“Without these elements, then we won’t be able to move forward. So these are clear actions that we are taking right now.”

White also cited the current 20 new projects in place to increase dealer coverage, including the implementation of “satellite” servicing programs in rural areas, where in particular the Volkswagen Amarok ute is popular.

“We do acknowledge that some of our dealers have a very long [servicing] wait time,” he added, committing to a further expansion of the dealers in Roma and Mount Isa (QLD), Griffith (NSW) and Castle Hill (Metro Sydney) among others.

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Next year VGA will also introduce a local version of the international Das Welt Autos, the brand’s certified used car program, to better manage residual values and the sales experience of used Volkswagen buyers.

But Volkswagen Australia isn’t planning on introducing an extended warranty beyond the current three-year/100,000km program, despite DSG safety and reliability issues that plagued the local arm earlier this year.

“I can tell you that I’m monitoring very closely what all the warranties are in the competitive set. I do acknowledge that some manufacturers have extended warranties … if you increase the coverage you’ve got to look at your pricing and costings, because everything has a cost to it.

“I’m going to monitor it [but] there’s no plans to change the warranty.”

White, who has been with the Volkswagen Group for 20 years but joined as local managing director in April from previous positions in Canada and the US, also confessed that the strong media coverage about the DSG issues and the brand’s apparent reluctance to address them, has hurt sales and the brand’s image.

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“There’s no doubt it’s been a difficult period, and it’s had some impact on the brand. And I think that the move forward or the next step … there’s a lot of work to do.

“If anything it’s forced us to be a little bit sharper and more disciplined.”

Volkswagen has had to re-adjust its sales forecasts this year, though its 57,000 expected tally for full-year 2013 would still be up slightly on last year’s 54,500 result.

“Could it have been more? Yeah it could have been more for a host of reasons,” added White, who listed an inconsistent approach to the market, and the run-out of Golf Mk6 and GTI as reasons for the re-adjusted expectations, in addition to the DSG issue.




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