OK, the best (or worst) VW failure I've heard of personally.
My wife's cousin had a late-90's VW Jetta Automatic. While she was waiting at a traffic light, all of the sudden ka-blooey!
The engine broke loose from its engine mounts and breached the cabin. The block actually came to rest inside the car, at the passenger-side footwell. If anyone was sitting there (including her young daughters), their legs would have been crushed.
Apparently, the dealer didn't act too surprised. Nevertheless, the vehicle was totalled and full new value was given by VW Corporate. There was a critical weakness in the engine mounts that only effects a certain lot. The number of cars and severity wasn't enough for a recall. Scary stuff.
We have only had our 2003 wagon since new with a lifetime of 54.40 mpg over the 57,731 miles. I did get the seat burning issue. It was funny or not so funny really, I was driving home and smelled something odd, then felt a warm spot and immediately turned off the seats, got out and looked sure enough there was a pencil sized burn hole in the seat. Then I was wondering how I hadn’t really felt it and checked my bottom. It was exactly where my wallet was, burned a hold through my pants to my wallet. I did ask about being paid for my pants but they said no.
The bad part was I had called about a month earlier asking if I could just get the seat heater replaced but they couldn't until it failed. Now the seat doesn't get as warm
That is the only issue I have had with the car since we bought it and the only time I have ever had it in the shop. I have heard horror stories about some VW shops so I do everything myself.
My car does fall under this recall, but I am nervous about bringing it in to let them mess with it.
When I worked at a shop a while back, I got the professional scoop on how cars are built and how often they break down and why.
The US used to make good cars, but now they build them to fail around 80-100k. Toyota and Honda are now the two makes to buy if you want your car to run 200k+
Some cars just suck, always have certain problems, 4runners have this odd MAF thing, always...
But anyway, just to show you that patterns are noticed, on to VW:
While I was there a 2005 jetta had a water pump failure, took a full two days for one of the mechanics to completely disassemble the front of of the car to fix it...and for 10 hour days at 80 and hour (shop charge)...that's a big bill.
One of the first days I was there I worked on a Golf that had a bad fuel pump, it hadn't been done all day because no one wanted to work on it since it was in so often and was considered a cursed car.
I remember two golfs with phantom wiring issues throwing cels for problems or parts that never existed in the first place, lots of cursing.
I got stuck on a lot of VWs because no one wants to do them since they always take longer to repair than the book has listed for the average car (most jobs are under/around book)...
Out of any car that came in, the older mechanics disliked VW the most, because they're always there and aren't built to be worked on.
I had been a huge VW fan until then. They're still okay looking though,
I had a '76 Rabbit and something was always breaking on it. Valve seals, carb, head gasket, timing belt idler, alternator, shift linkage, and probably a bunch I've forgotten. I lost count of how many outer CV joints I put on.
Electrical problems are nothing new to VW. Beetles with early electronic fuel injection were usually greatly improved by being fitted with carburetors. Many '75 and '76 Rabbits had fuse panel failures because rain and (in winter) salty water dripped into the fuse panel from the antenna cable grommet (in the fender well, exposed to road spray). The only reason I didn't have this problem was the the car wasn't fitted with a radio from the factory. I installed my own radio and antenna, and didn't route the cable as the factory did.
With all its faults the Rabbit had a couple of things going for it. It was actually not bad to work on. And it was a blast to drive. Noisy, full of rattles and squeaks, but very spirited for an econobox.
In 1975 VW was well ahead of the economy subcompact pack, which was mostly front pushrod engines (some OHC), 4-speed transmissions, and live axles in the rear. I had a friend with a Saab 99 and the Rabbit was in some ways like a cheap version of the Saab.
Thirty years have rolled by and from what I can see VW haven't done much but make their cars hard to work on. They've also blimped out tremendously - a 2007 Golf (Rabbit, whatever) is bigger but it weighs 63% more than a 1975 Rabbit (Golf, whatever).
And they've gotten thirsty. Back in the 1980s, VW consistently had a car with the highest EPA mileage rating. They even (birefly) sold a Rabbit with idle stop, foreshadowing the Civic hybrid. Today they have nothing that even leads its class in fuel efficiency. I think I read recently that the Toureg made the list of 10 *least* green vehicles available.
While they rested on their laurels, the folks in Tokyo have more than caught up, and Seoul isn't far behind.
It's a sorry situation for VW but I guess they brought it on themselves.