As temperatures across the UK plummet below freezing, most drivers will be preoccupied with the traction of their tyres on Britain’s icy roads, but for some, there’s an even bigger problem to worry about.
Owners of Audi’s Mk2 TT have discovered that their electric windows will fail – usually while mid-way open – leaving them unable to park their car (without risk of it being stolen) and with the unwelcome side-effect of winter open-air motoring on every journey.
We first picked up on the problem last February when the driver’s side window on our own 2007 TT 2.0 TFSi failed. After discovering it was caused by the fraying of a cable (connecting the window regulator with the pulleys which move the pane of glass), I decided to replace the part myself so as to understand ‘how’ it could have occurred.
The conclusion we reached was of the premature failure of a component which most owners would reasonably expect to last the lifetime of their car, or at least the custody of several owners.
We soon discovered the problem was not an isolated incident and after being contacted by dozens of TT owners, we reached out to Audi UK to find out what could be done.
After much toing and froing, Audi UK eventually agreed this was an issue and released a statement advising customers to get in touch with Audi Customer Services who had been briefed to handle the situation.
That was back in May 2012, since then we’ve been inundated with emails and phone calls from TT owners telling us the same thing – official dealers are quick to slap customers with a £300 repair bill, while Audi Customer Services deny any manufacturing fault, dismissing it instead as ‘wear and tear’ (i.e. the customer’s fault).
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The Sale of Goods Act 1979 gives customers the right to claim compensation for a faulty product if it’s proven to be of insufficient quality or not fit for purpose. The seller (i.e. the official Audi dealer) must either repair or replace the goods ‘within a reasonable time but without causing significant inconvenience to the customer’. I’d say driving around in a car while freezing your nads off counts as ‘inconvenience’, as does the fear of it being stolen when parked outside your house.
If the retailer refuses to replace or repair the product (as appears to be the case in this instance) then the customer has the right to arrange for someone else to repair the item, and then claim compensation from the retailer for the cost of doing this.
The customer has up to six years to take a claim to court for faulty goods in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or five years in Scotland, so every one of the incidents we’ve seen fall into this period of jurisdiction.
If you’d like to pursue this route, then there’s a handy guide on the which.co.uk website that talks you through the process.
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We took these fresh concerns to Audi UK and between the beginning of August 2012 and the end of November 2012, they chose to ignore us. It wasn’t until we rattled our social media cage that one of Audi’s Customer Relations Managers (Craig Westwood) got in touch on 23rd November.
After a further two weeks of waiting, last Friday we received the following response (copied to Jon Zammett, Head of Audi Public Relations):
Audi’s Response: Audi TT Window Regulator Problem
Thank you for contacting us in reference to dissatisfaction with window regulators.
We apologise for falling short of meeting customers’ rightfully high expectations in this instance, and ask that owners who have been inconvenienced by this problem, and who feel that it hasn’t been resolved to their satisfaction, contact Audi Customer Services for further assistance.
The team can be reached on Freephone number 0800 699888 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We recommend that customers please quote their name, address and car registration in any email correspondence.
So, as you can see, after 10 months of liaising with Audi’s Customer Service teams we’re back to square one. No apologies for reneging on the promise made to customers in May, or any further insight from Audi’s ‘public relations’ people on why the failures keep occurring and what this says about Audi’s commitment to its customers and the quality of its cars.
In the meantime, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear, Audi continues to grow at a double-digit rate with worldwide deliveries up 10.9 percent last month on the same period in 2011. The company is on target for its biggest sales year ever, exceeding the record amount of 1,302,659 new cars sold in 2011.
I’ve worked with many of my corporate clients over the years, helping them deal with a symptom called ‘Brand Arrogance’, where market leaders stop listening to customers and become intoxicated with the sound of their own voice. Maybe they’ll awaken in time to avoid the inevitable decline, but the signs are not good.
The company’s latest RS 4 seems acutely compromised, the R8 continues on with a dated cockpit and was the Crosslane Coupé really worthy of its Paris Motor Show build-up? And of course anyone who’s visited Goodwood’s Festival of Speed over the past few years, can’t help but have noticed the vastness of Audi’s monument to itself.
In the meantime after living with an RS 4 and R8, we still own our Mk2 TT, and still love it to bits, which I guess makes us part of the problem – if only Audi’s cars weren’t so damned desirable..