Proud owner of two of modern era’s greatest auto maintenance nightmares suffers predictable tragedy
âMeet the hero who owns two of the modern era’s greatest auto maintenance nightmares,â read our 2019 headline on proud VW Touareg and Passat W8 owner Gareth Watkins. A year after this story was published, Watkins sent me an update on his fleet, and, well, it’s as predictable as it is tragic.
Watkins, a British Amazon employee living in Spain, is a huge fan of German big-engine cars. He told my colleague Raphael in an email last year that he had “never been a fan of the boring family car and the easy life that comes with it”, and that he “[finds] it’s almost impossible to refuse an excessively oversized engine, especially when it comes to a frivolous inclusion in a vehicle that will perform perfectly well with a smaller, more sensibly proportioned engine.
With that kind of thinking, it makes sense that Watkins chose to buy both a Passat W8 and a Touareg V10 TDI, two vehicles with an enormous displacement total. nine liters. That’s a lot of liters for vehicles in Europe, where fuel costs more than good wine.
It seemed almost predictable
The $ 12,000 Touareg ($ 17,048), Watkins told me when I interviewed him last year, lured him in with its hearty electronic gadgets. From our interview:
I saw this in the field when looking for a sane car and was sucked in by the amount of equipment it hasâ¦ this car has a lot going for it! I have to say a lot of things are unnecessary, but I like having the option. It’s not such a nice place to sit as my W8, it has waaaaay too many buttons to start withâ¦. I like a nice area with no clean button, but it’s the opposite of that.
But even in 2019, Watkins had issues with the large SUV’s electrical system, claiming he drove the vehicle “in constant fear.” He described some of the electric gremlins that plague the big diesel Touareg, in these terms:
â¦ There is definitely an electrical problem of some sort as I get random warning lights on transmission issues and also a license plate light warningâ¦ every now and then it will go into lame mode as wellâ¦ the gearbox does weird things every now and then and again if you put your foot down too quickly.
Watkins went on to tell me over the phone that if the dealership where the car had spent at least half of its time under Watkins ownership could not repair the car while it was still under warranty, Watkins knew it. “Would definitely feel the world of pain everyone is talking about over there in the US”
This “world of pain”, of course, is a reference to the reputation that high-end products of the VW Group not only need frequent repairs to their electrical systems, but also for these repairs to be extremely expensive. Then came the foreshadowing:
“We hope it won’t be anything terminalâ¦ well certainly no terminal for my wallet, anyway.”
“I’m happy enough to spend some money to make sure it stays in A1 condition,” he told me, adding that he first wanted to know that “” it’s not okay. not hit me with a nasty surprise before going to do something like that.
It was last year. Now, last July, Watkins emailed me telling me that in January, after sitting at the store since September 2019, the Touareg hit Watkins with a “really bad surprise” that was very “terminal. “: In flames.
Watkins had left the car with his mechanic friend after the machine’s electrical system continually crapped the bed. Aside from a four-day period in which Watkins returned to the parking lot after a shopping spree to find the car completely dead, the vehicle had been in the store for four consecutive months.
âI was actually skiing in France on vacation when the store owner sent me these photos,â Watkins told me, referring to the images of the self-immolation just outside the garage. “I don’t know exactly what the problem was and probably won’t find out by nowâ¦ but it was an electrical problem that luckily happened when no one was in the car.”
Watkins told me the store just couldn’t fix the car’s electrical issues, which included issues with the central locking system. “At one point my wife parked the car, went out the driver’s door toâ¦ get our daughter out, and the car locked with it. [my daughter] stuck in the car. Fortunately, after about 40 minutes of Watkins’ wife trying to unlock the ATV with the key and remote, the car “unlocked on its own.”
It was at this point that the Watkins family decided to stop driving the car, but from that point on the vehicle remained in the shop as technicians struggled to fix the various electrical issues. car, Watkins saying of car sickness: Worst possible way.
âIt was in store from September to January until it caught fire,â he told me, saying that âwhatever electrical problem he had, it was very complicatedâ. He is thankful that no one was in the car when it caught fire. Looking at the pictures, the fire seems to have started under the hood:
âThat’s it. One of the VW twins is gone,â Watkins said, although he tells me his Passat W8 is still doing well. âOther than the fact that it’s still in the UK. UK and I’m still in Spainâ¦ other than that it’s great, “he said. Watkins returned to the UK for a month last summer and drove the Passat for three weeks.” Yeah, and that’s great. Perfect. No complaints. Still enough to remind me why I’m keeping it.
Hopefully, Watkins says, the fiery Touareg is the finale of its VW Unreliable saga, and the W8 Passat leads a long and prosperous life.