The German brand has been languishing at the lower end of independent automotive quality surveys in recent years, and it has also been the intense focus of online forums brimming with owner complaints.
In March Volkswagen said it was recalling vehicles in China equipped with DSG (dual-clutch auto) gearboxes (pictured in cutaway form below) after Chinese VW owners reported issues such as loss of power and abnormal vibrations.
Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, Volkswagen’s member of the board of management responsible for development (main image), told CarAdvice at the recent VW Golf Mark 7 launch the company has assigned an internal working group to specifically tackle the problem.
“Quality is very important – especially for Volkswagen,” said Hackenberg. “We know that there’s some potential to become better and we are working hard on that.
“We have made taskforce in Wolfsburg to improve the quality gain against the customer. [But] quality is not only relying on a component [to work correctly], it’s also how you manage a problem.
“You can’t avoid problems, but you have to manage the problems. If the customer is coming with a problem and we can help him immediately then fine, but if the customer has to come maybe twice or three times the problem is bigger.
“So we have to improve the whole process, we know that. We have to do something and we are working hard.
“And it’s very important to find out from country to country the differences because maybe the customer is dealing in a different way with the car, or the traffic is different, or the climate is different. Often we find we have a problem in a specific market and we don’t see that problem in other markets.
“So we have to find out together with the organisation that is here in the region, what are the reasons, then we find the right answers to manage it.”
Volkswagen Australia’s newly appointed Canadian boss, John White (above), has already pinpointed customer service as a key area for him to address locally.
“If I may add to [the] the customer treatment part, in terms of my early assessment after a couple of weeks into the job here is something we need to improve,” said White. “It’s something that’s on my radar screen in terms of being one of my top 3 priorities.
“Clearly we need to be better with that. I’ve seen some data and some examples of where I think we can take some action and I want to take the opportunity to see what we’ve done in other markets to improve that. We can take our share of [the improvements] here, and with the dealer body. We need to work on that and we will.”
In a 2012 JD Power Asia-Pacific study focused on customer service in Australia, Volkswagen was the lowest ranked of 12 car makers.
The Australia Customer Service Index Study also included Honda and Toyota (joint best), Subaru, Mazda and Mitsubishi (all above the industry average), with the below-average manufacturers comprising Kia, Hyundai, Holden, Ford, Nissan, Suzuki and Volkswagen.
Volkswagen has acknowledged improving its quality reputation locally will be important for its ambitions to grow sales significantly in Australia.
The company has also announced this week that it is developing a 10-speed version of the DSG gearbox among other technological developments.