As many of you know, our S3 recently had it's 3rd birthday, and with it the MoT's have started and the manufacturer warranty has expired. It is now the time where you live with your fingers tightly crossed that all will remain as reliable as the VW adverts of the 80's would have us believe (if only everything in life was a reliable as a Volkswagen!).
For a few days I've been looking at that boxed 4Gb USB stick which Audi UK sent me. I'll quote from the letter here:
We hope you are enjoying your Audi as much today as when you first took ownership. We try never to forget that customers like you are the most important part of what we do.... and we really hope that your car, the service you receive....are living up to your expectations.
As I'm sat at the cross roads of :
a) Buying the car outright by paying the bubble
b) Giving it back and walking away
c) Trading the S3 against something else in the Audi range (with a cash bung and a revised PCP)
I've been doing quite a lot of thinking about my love affair of 17 years with VAG, and how my expectations have changed as I've climbed up the pyramid of 'prestige' within their brand.
I love Audi's. I honestly do. I love the design concept, I love the technologies, I love how the brand pioneers within motorsport with TDI and previously with Quattro. Since the mid 80's I've been a avid fan of the Group B rally cars, then onto BTCC in the 90's with the A4's, and have only ever aspired to own powerful Audi's since before I was even entitled to drive.
But 25 years on, and I'm feeling reticent. I still love the cars (the RS4, S3, S5, RS5, RS6, R8...), and I can still afford to buy into (some) of them. However I'm feeling reluctant to pass my cash over the counter for another, and I'm looking at the finance agreements and wondering whether to take my car ownership away from Ingolstadt, and join the guys from Munich with the M badge.
It's been troubling me so much, I decided to phone up Audi UK and let them know why I was stalling on the return of my paperwork. Dawn Cox is Head of UK Customer Service Development at Audi UK, and I was hoping to speak to her as she was the lady who had signed the letter for my freebie USB stick. After a considerable hold one of the agents put me through to her second in command, Jane Jones, and we had a lengthy chat about some of the highs and lows of my 3 years of Audi ownership has played out. I wouldn't normally bother, but I felt a compulsion to play back to the people who CAN AFFECT CHANGE what the ownership experience was like for the PRIVATE OWNER customer on the M4 corridor.
We chatted for quite a while, and the conversation was not pitched as a rant at all, just a pure feedback session. I made it absolutely clear this is not a case of me venting frustration before I move on to another brand, it was about letting them understand my dilemma with respect to signing up for continued Audi ownership. I don't want compensation, I don't even want an apology; all I'd ask is that they record these thoughts and attempt to address them so that should I decide to stay an Audi customer I have a nugget of hope that the ownership experience will begin to feel more sincere and helpful, as that's ultimately all I ask once I've bought the car.
I very much replayed my continued love of the physical product, but also tried to express (in a balanced way) the exposures you can feel subjected to at times when dealers are dismissive or occasionally condescending, or when they 'occasionally' fail to rectify issues especially where no DTC's are present (meaning I am forced to resort to the independents at cost to me, when I am already paying for maintenance). The more painful part of the discussion for me was that Audi franchises in the Southern M4 belt are at risk of becoming a conveyor belt service where only the product and the showroom are premium, and any essence of 'premium service' seems to be being eroded as volume sales increase, and margins tighten. The only time you often get treated with respect is whilst ink is drying on contracts, or when money is changing hands.
Overall it was a productive discussion, and one where she said she will get Dawn Cox to call me back as they are always interested in OBJECTIVE feedback. I have made it clear I visit Audi forums, and keep an eye on the public perception, but I'd be incredibly grateful if you could do me a favour and fill in the forum poll at the top of the page, as it will be interesting statistically for the discussion I have with Dawn in the next week or so.
Apologies this is a mammoth outpouring, but I hope that by having useful factual info to hand, it will stimulate useful discussion and maybe just help some of us who may have had less than positive experiences in the past. Likewise I am interested in the POSITIVE responses (where's Dave!) so that this doesn't just become a slagging session (maybe that we can see regionally which are the best performers at a later stage).
Once again, my thanks for your time and any feedback you have!