Should I still buy a VW?
August 16, 2016 7:11 PM   Subscribe

I really like my 2000 Jetta, and am in the market for a new car. Should I buy a (gasoline) GTI after VW's diesel malfeasance over the past few years?

I have a 2000 VW Jetta 1.8t that I bought brand new all those years ago with the plan to drive it for a good long while. It's now been a good long while. I've really enjoyed it, apparently lucking out with no major issues over the years. However, it's getting old, and I would like a new car. My mental plan for the last few years has been to eventually replace the Jetta with a GTI. Smaller than the Jetta, zippy & fun to drive. However, the whole "dieselgate" thing has left a bad taste in my mouth wrt VW's behavior.

Am I over-analyzing VW's bad actions? Should I feel comfortable giving them money? (or are many of the car makers similarly shady in different, and they just got caught?) Should I just buy a slightly used one and pass the buck? Go with something else in the small, fast market space? (I'm open to suggestions -- the Focus ST looks fun, but only comes in a manual, which I don't know how to drive).
posted by bigdamnnerd to Shopping (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Am I over-analyzing VW's bad actions?
Yes. They are not by any means the only auto company to try and circumvent regulations or participate in shady stuff to some degree and it is naive to assume that just because this last VW one got a LOT of press it is the only time it is happening. At least it was emission regulations versus crash regulations - consider the GM ignition switch episode for just one example. That directly killed people, they knew about it and did nothing.

The GTI is a great car, and VW will continue past this issue, so if it is still the best car for you, then by all means buy it.
posted by Brockles at 7:17 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Morally, the decision can only be yours. Is the scale of the deception enough to make you not want to reward those who were aware and profited from this fraud?
Keep in mind that this was not a few isolated engineers but an organization-wide program.
Personally, after the buyback is done, I will never buy another Volkswagen, and I've driven nothing else for the last 20 years.

Practically, once the buyback starts, there will likely be a lot of incentives to get people on the lot and buying VWs again.
Some dealers are already reporting excess inventory for 2016 models, with 2017 right around the corner.
I'd be willing to bet there will be Loyalty programs available for previous owners. If you can take advantage of one of those couple with clearance prices, chances are you could get a pretty sweet deal.

(Also, in case you weren't aware, VW reliability and initial quality has taken a nose dive in the 2 decades since you bought your Jetta and that was before they took a $15 billion hit to the bottom line)
posted by madajb at 7:37 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

On the one hand, VW obviously screwed up badly with, as you put it, 'dieselgate'. On the other hand, because they screwed up so badly they'll be under a microscope for some time to come, and will be closely watched by everyone in the entire industry --- everyone from competitors and government watchdogs to insurance companies, organizations like Consumer Reports, and automotive reviewers. Which is not to say that other car manufacturers are pure as the driven snow, just that VW got well and truly caught.

I wouldn't buy any VW vehicles --- diesel or gasoline, honestly --- that are already available; if you really want another VW, I would suggest waiting at least another 2-3 years: wait long enough to be reasonably sure all the parts are manufactured after this current mess, but while everybody still has their every move under close watch.
posted by easily confused at 7:39 PM on August 16, 2016

My dad's view (he has a VW diesel) is that the diesel scandal shows just how good VW's engineers are, and the extra scrutiny they'll be under for a while yet measn that they'll use their powers for good - so you can look forward to the next generation of VWs being really really good cars.
posted by girlgenius at 7:55 PM on August 16, 2016

I have always lusted after a GTI or Golf R in its various incarnations.

Also, I've owned three VWs over the years. But after the deeply cynical manipulation of this mess, I've crossed them off my list forever, and sticking with another company. The way that companies behave should not be exempt from the standards we place upon people generally: it's not as though our cyborg overlords have taken over (yet) and ethics don't matter.

I'd like to assert that they do.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 7:57 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have a 2014 GTI, which I love. The dieselgate thing did give me pause, although there are very few big carmakers who haven't had some kind of scandal. I made my peace with it by buying a used VW so that at least my money didn't go directly to them. (Note: I would have bought a used one anyway, but it made me feel better about it).
My guess is that if you're in the market currently, you can probably get a good deal on the 2016 Mk VII right now.

I'll point out that in 2012, Toyota paid a 1.2 billion fine to avoid prosecution for covering up its knowledge of its cars' problem with unintended acceleration. The Takata airbag problem resulted in large fines for Honda and Takata for coverups and the recall is still going on. GM hid its knowledge of the Chevy Cobalt's faulty ignition. I'm not suggesting that because everyone is doing shady things, it's okay, but it's hard to buy a car from a company that hasn't had an ethics problem at some point, and so it probably makes sense to just buy the car you like.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 8:01 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I bought a GTI a year ago, and I'd buy another today. If you want a hot hatch with an automatic, there really isn't another good option in the price range. The DSG transmission is really, really great, and the car is amazing to drive. I got a great deal a year ago, and I bet you can get an even better deal today, with the 2017s coming out.
posted by Huck500 at 8:39 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nah you are not overreacting. That company is deceitful as fuck. Sorry can't educate you on other car options but wanted to let you know that your gut is right.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:00 PM on August 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have a 2015 GTI, which I like a lot. I won't be buying another VW product because of this and my suspicion that they've likely gotten up to other, as yet undiscovered, shenanigans.
posted by notyou at 9:19 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

all i know is VW have got some great deals on just now and i got a brand new golf wagon for under $20K, which replaced an older passat wagon. i had always considered myself adverse to buying new and preferred used, but it made little sense money wise given the less than $5K between the two options. they've got waiting lists up the wazoo for the TDIs when they're legal again too, which amused me no end.
posted by iboxifoo at 11:07 PM on August 16, 2016

I am in a similar position, with a well-loved 2001 Jetta that I was all set to replace with a GTI when Dieselgate hit. The GTI is close to perfect for my requirements so I gave serious thought to whether I should go ahead with my purchase regardless of the scandal, especially since I can probably bargain the price down. I believe that the resale value of the car might be somewhat reduced, but I plan to keep the car for several years so that wasn't a significant factor. I also have no fear that Volkswagen will go out of business in the US or otherwise be unable to maintain availability of parts and service. This is one of the biggest auto makers in the world—they will be around in some form for a long time.

However, I ended up deciding that I couldn't do it. As a consumer in a free market, I believe I have some responsibility to avoid rewarding businesses for fraudulent, hostile, or immoral business practices. Volkswagen did not make an innocent mistake in designing their diesel engines, nor can this be blamed on a rogue individual or small team—rather, they implemented a deliberate, well-considered program to defraud consumers and flout environmental regulations. I personally know several people who own diesel VW/Audi cars affected by Dieselgate. The argument that other car companies likely engage in similar deceptive practices is also not compelling to me. They might indeed, but that does not excuse VW's actions.

It's really too bad because overall, I've really enjoyed my Jetta and was looking forward to getting the GTI. After a lot of research and test driving I've decided to throw my lot in with BMW and get a used 228i instead.
posted by 4rtemis at 11:33 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't reward Volkswagen with my custom, no. One might suspect other automakers engage in deceitful practices, but that's just suspicion. With VW, there's proof.

If you believe voting with your dollars can influence corporate behavior, then vote for the behavior you want to see in the world. VW's consequences shouldn't just be regulatory fines—they calculated the cost of getting caught and decided it was worth it to cheat the system. (Grossly under-calculated as it happens, but still, they knew what they were up to.) A tarnished brand and loss of marketshare will send a clearer message. Let VW spend some time in the wilderness and serve as an object lesson.
posted by mumkin at 12:03 AM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Besides ethical considerations, my experience with VW in regards to reliability hadn't been stellar. My 2002 1.8t jetta was basically falling apart by 86k miles. My 08 civic is at 118k, and most of the issues it has have been inflicted on it by me.
posted by pyro979 at 5:05 AM on August 17, 2016

I was with 4rtemis until the solution was revealed to be "buy a used BMW." This may be an answer to this particular question, but it will introduce many others (probably the day after the warranty expires). j/k.

VW makes (and brings to the US) niche cars that don't have many direct substitutes. If you want a new station wagon under $25k, the Golf Sportwagen is it, period. Same deal with the GTI (the RS is a competitor, but I don't think it's as well-rounded as a daily driver and it costs about $10k more). Everyone must do their own version of this calculus, but eschewing VW wouldn't be worth a 40% premium to me.

Brockles: The GTI is a great car, and VW will continue past this issue, so if it is still the best car for you, then by all means buy it.

Couldn't agree more.
posted by ndg at 7:29 AM on August 17, 2016

I was with 4rtemis until the solution was revealed to be "buy a used BMW." This may be an answer to this particular question, but it will introduce many others (probably the day after the warranty expires). j/k.
Yes, this choice is specific to my situation (which includes previous BMW experience and the ability to take transit to work should the car be in the shop) and not necessarily recommended for others...

bigdamnnerd, I recently inquired here about cars in the premium/sports compact range like the GTI and the suggestions there might be of interest to you.
posted by 4rtemis at 10:25 AM on August 17, 2016

VW didn't just cover up a single model, single year mess up. They built generations of these engines, deployed them across their fleet, and created a huge marketing campaign to sell the lie to as many suckers customers as they could. They didn't just fudge the margins a bit, they deliberately conned and defrauded their customers for going on a decade. Not even getting into the ethics of the environmental damage they've deliberately done. And they only stopped because they got caught red handed.

It's totally up to you whether you're okay making a major purchase, with ongoing maintenance needs, from a company like this, but I know we won't ever do it again.

Why yes, we do have a TDI. How could you tell?
We also used to have a GTI and it was fun, but damn the maintenance bills

posted by The Shoodoonoof at 11:53 AM on August 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh my word. I love my 2012 GTI so very much! It's a great drive, has super handling, and since it's a manual (getting harder and harder to find) it gets not horrible gas mileage when I drive it like I should.
posted by teleri025 at 12:58 PM on August 17, 2016

Just wanted to clarify that by this:
It's totally up to you whether you're okay making a major purchase, with ongoing maintenance needs, from a company like this, but I know we won't ever do it again.

I'm not talking about a moralistic judgement like "should you do business with an asshole"*, but how comfortable are you with the risk of investing your money and time with a known cheat. If you're okay with a greater risk that there will be additional whammies that may affect the maintenance cost/resale value/performance of your vehicle, then you might be fine with buying from them. At least now from a risk analysis perspective you can go in with your eyes open.

* I mean that's a consideration too, but not one I was trying to speak to. Others have already said that better.
posted by The Shoodoonoof at 3:32 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the food for thought, all. I think I'm going to skip the VW, though I'm not sure what I'll go for. The 228i looks amazing but are a bit out of my price range.
posted by bigdamnnerd at 9:52 AM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

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