Michelle Tupper of Tillsonburg, Ont., was proud of her new vehicle purchase: a stone blue metallic 2021 Volkswagen (VW) Tiguan.
The mid-sized SUV replaced her VW Jetta which was written off in a rear-end accident earlier this year.
But only three weeks after Tupper took delivery of the Tiguan, something happened that changed her mind about the vehicle and the manufacturer.
“At first I didn’t realize what happened, where that big bang came from,” Tupper told Global News in an interview on her driveway.
She needed to run an errand but a vehicle was parked behind the Tiguan on their driveway.
“So I made the decision to grab my wallet and drive my husband’s vehicle. In the process of grabbing my wallet and shutting my door, my back window just completely smashed right out,” she said.
Tupper was startled and surprised. She said she had closed the driver’s door in a “normal” way, not very hard.
The vehicle was towed to a local Volkswagen dealer and examined.
The German automobile manufacturer refused to pay to replace the glass. Tupper was stuck with a $525.33 bill, which she paid.
“It should be investigated, it should be looked into more,” Tupper said.
Volkswagen Canada told Global News one of its technical specialists viewed the vehicle in person and determined “the cause of the glass breakage to be outside influence.”
“The action of closing the door likely caused pieces of glass to fall to the ground, however the breakage itself was in fact the result of some sort of impact from the outside,” said Thomas Tetzlaff, manager of media relations for Volkswagen Canada.
“We understand the customer’s disappointment, however this is not a manufacturing defect,” Tetzlaff asserted.
Tupper contacted Global News about her case after seeing a report about broken glass involving another Volkswagen owner who lives north of Toronto.
Ten days after taking delivery of a 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Execline with a bumper-to-bumper warranty, Philip de Manbey got an unwelcome surprise on his daily commute to east Toronto along Highway 407, in what he described as clear, dry weather with almost no road traffic nearby.
“Bang, like a gunshot, the roof just exploded,” de Manbey told Global News.
“Who would have guessed we are all driving in potential time bombs,” de Manbey said, summing up his concern about what happened.
Volkswagen refused to pay thousands of dollars to repair his roof, so de Manbey filed an auto insurance claim.
In that case, Volkswagen told Global News the damage was due to a “direct impact” from an outside source, “likely a rock or other bit of road debris.”
“Please note the sunroof glass performed exactly as designed,” Tetzlaff said.
After the roof shattered, de Manbey contacted the Ontario Provincial Police. Officers scoured the highway to search for evidence of debris that might be the cause, but could find nothing, de Manbey said.
In that case, Volkswagen contributed $500 toward de Manbey’s insurance deductible but denied responsibility for the breakage.
In the United States, at least one class action lawsuit is pending after complaints of shattered glass involving Volkswagen sunroofs and windows.
Volkwagen faced a much larger legal battle beginning in 2015 after the United States Environmental Protection Agency found VW had intentionally programmed turbocharged direct injection diesel engines to manipulate vehicle emissions tests.
In 2017, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to criminal charges including conspiracy to defraud the government. It paid $20 billion (U.S.) to resolve civil and criminal charges related to the scandal.
Several Volkswagen executives faced criminal charges, including former CEO Martin Winterkorn, whose fraud case is still pending in Braunschweig, Germany, near the company’s headquarters.
Today, Volkswagen said Winterkorn will pay about $11.2 million euros (about $16.5 million CAD) for “breaches of due diligence” that led to the company’s emissions cheating scandal.
Volkwagen’s recent dark history is one reason some Canadian consumers don’t believe the automaker when it says the auto glass in its vehicles is not defective.
“Hopefully, it won’t take any deaths for the manufacturer to ‘fess up,” de Manbey wrote.
Tupper said she wanted others to know about her experience before making a final decision to buy a Volkswagen.
“I don’t have much faith in this vehicle at all,” Tupper said, adding she’s wondering whether another window or her sunroof will break.