Latest Reader Question: Keep or “Fix” Passat TDI (May 14, 2018)

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jim asks: I have a ’15 Passat TDI SE which I picked up used with 13K miles (like new condition) for 20K. It now has 23K miles and is still like new. I am very pleased with the car. I have been satisfied with the result of my purchase, above all, and had fully intended to drive the car and ignore the court settlement. I am now getting correspondence from VW (or VW’s lawyers) with scare language to the effect that if I don’t take the buyback or get the mods, then the warranty is void and there will be no parts for repairs. My questions for you: 1. Do you think there will be aftermarket parts available for me to keep the vehicle on the road and in good condition? 2. Would you take the buyback (for any reason)? (I could also allow the mods, but honestly, I’d rather do the buyback than let them modify it. Being forced into that just makes me sick to my stomach.)

My reply: The correspondence you’ve been getting is intended to “nudge” you to accept the buyback. But I doubt it comes from VW. Even if it did, they are obligated to abide by the warranty coverage – although by now that is becoming an irrelevance since (IIRC) the original full-car coverage was good for three years/36,000 miles. But I would not sweat this – and to answer your specific questions:

  1. I am certain, without qualification, that there will be factory as well as aftermarket parts to service and maintain your car for at least the next 20 years, if not indefinitely – absent The Apocalypse! One can still get normal service parts for VW diesels made in the ’70s! VW is a huge company and these cars were made in huge numbers. If you had a ’75 rotary-powered Suzuki, I’d warn you off ūüôā
  2. If I had one of these cars I would never accept the buyback, for reasons of principle as much as because the cars are superb. I would also decline the mods. You may be pressured to accept them by the VW dealership – which is being pressured by VW corporate. I would avoid the dealership and have the car serviced by an independent shop.. . .Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. I have a 2012 Passat. I was planning on “taking the money” and not getting the car fixed. Nope. Gotta show proof. My “repair” was a SW update. So I had it done. I’ve seen minimal, if ANY, change in MPG. I’m getting High 30s low 40s on mixed driving. What I was concerned about is that my state currently exempts diesels from emissions testings. That might not be the case if you car ain’t “fixed”. Anyway, best I can determine, IF I lost any fuel economy, the payout I received would cover the higher fuel cost for the life of the car. So, don’t get the fix if you don’t want the fix, but I’m not seeing any degradation of performance.

  2. My cousin timing belt went on his diesel TDI Jetta. Did a lot of damage (engine and turbos got cooked). But he got it fixed because he knows there really is no replacement. Has had it back a few days and seems happy (says its like new again) that he repaired it rather then throwing it away.

    • Hi Rich,

      I’ve been test driving new cars since the mid 1990s and the only new cars that outperformed the EPA mileage estimates were VW diesel-powered cars. Fantastic mileage, with the tremendous torque of the diesel engine and without the weight/extra cost and other negatives of a hybrid or electric car.

      Which, of course, is why they had to go.

      • Yes, he gets 50+ miles per gallon without having to drive like an old lady. His car is old enough it doesn’t have the DEF tank etc. I think he got it rebuilt by a third party, so i don’t think it got the “fix”. But now he has a new engine, turbos and exhaust. Cost about $7,000, which seems expensive, until you compare it with buying a new car.

        When he bought it (his first new car, I think its a 2007), he had been looking mostly at the Prius, but after test driving the VW had zero interest in the Toyota anymore. The diesel was more economical, far better looking and frankly far more fun to drive.

        Some of his lefty friends were upset he picked the Vw over the Prius, but he has to drive it, not the loopy friends. So glad he used his brains instead of doing the “in” thing.


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