Lighning struck my car and rendered ME powerless

My Volkswagen Beetle was struck by lightning on June 28th.

TWELVE weeks later my car is still possessed ? by the dealer!

For the last twelve weeks my car has been sitting on a lot at the Volkswagen dealership in Erie, Pennsylvania, waiting for parts. No one can tell us when the parts will be in, but once they are, the dealer will run the diagnostics again to see if anything ELSE got fried.

In all this time we have not received a SINGLE call from Volkswagen! They eventually return our calls, but no one has initiated a call.

I wrote a letter to Mr. Frank Witter CEO & CFO Volkswagen America on September 9th, and copied the Pennsylvania State Attorney General, but neither of them has responded.

Volkswagen Customer Service says:

? Because this was an ?act of God,? the car is not covered by warranty (In fact, God wouldn?t even allow the VW Club to tow my car when it happened);

? 6-8 weeks is their NORMAL time for parts delivery, so even when we talked to them at10 weeks, they did NOT consider this a back-order; and therefore

? I am NOT entitled to a loaner car.

And THAT is my problem!


? That?s THREE MONTHS of car, insurance, and parking payments with NO CAR and


How is it reasonable for any car company, let alone the manufacturers of ?The People?s Car,? to expect customers to suffer without their cars for literally MONTHS waiting for parts?

Parts could (and should!) be Fed-Ex?d in a matter of days.

Why should the customer have to suffer because the manufacturer and dealers can?t implement a reasonable parts inventory system? This puts an unreasonable burden on people who bought their cars in good faith. If the manufacturer and dealers can?t figure out how to get parts in a timely way, I believe they have a responsibility to make sure their customers have transportation in the meantime.

Unfortunately, the lightning strike did not imbue me with any special powers, or I would use them! But as it is, I feel as powerless as my poor car.

What can I do?

Next time you need service done to your car, go to a different dealership.
That is an excessive amount of time to have your car out of commission for parts from a non-exotic car company.

As for the car being struck by lightning, and them not honoring the warranty, that is a valid claim on their behalf. You are stuck footing the repair bill, in this case.

What I would have done, as soon as I knew I was going to foot the bill, would be to take the car to a good mechanic, and have that person get the needed parts from a salvage yard, as there are most likely plenty of you car available across the country.

Instead of 10 weeks, it would have taken 2 weeks.


If you haven’t already, check your auto insurance policy to see if your car is covered for lightning strikes. If so, perhaps the policy will cover a rental car.

Time to go down to the dealership, photograph the car & service people, then write photo E-mail to the local newspapers, better business bureau, department of consumer affairs, and your government representatives. Also time to go to another dealer and ask them if they would like a new customer since your dealer is ripping you off.

Hang out in their waiting room with a couple friends about 3 or 4 days a week for a couple hours a day, talking loudly about how poor the service is at the dealership, and how even after 10 weeks they haven’t started working on the car yet.

Hang around their sales floor area and state how the car just died and no one at the dealership is willing to do a thing about it.

If you affect their bottom line, they will stop affecting yours.

By the way, how did they know it was lightning? And how did they know if God caused the lightning or if it was caused by other factors?

I can’t believe they have so much trouble just checking a few fuses, and then checking the computer modules, reprograming and/or replacing as necessary.

If the newspapers don’t help you out, I would be tempted to jet tell the dealership they have one week to resolve the problem, or that you will just have the car towed to your local mechanic who will put in salvage parts and get you back on the road, and that you won’t pay the dealer a penny, but will be taking them to small claims court for the damages they caused.

In the 1960’s, VW claimed that they had all the parts in each dealer’s inventory to build a VW Beetle. My friends who owned VW Beetles in this time period bragged about how quickly their VW’s would be repaired and back on the road. My how times have changed.

I think it would be reasonable to ask what parts have been ordered and to have the dealer’s service department specify the part numbers. Have they told you what parts your VW needs?

Your coverage for the damage should be under the comprehensive insurance. The manufacturer or dealer have nothing to do with paying for the damage. You should start with your insurance company and let them decide where they want to go from here. Lightning is funny and can damage a lot of things often in ways that are not easy to detect. They may want to scrape it and replace it. In any case start there.

Welcome to the nightmare that is VW customer service. VW has lost customers not just because of some cars with poor repair records, they have lost them because of stories such as yours. That said, it’s not their responsibility to give you a loaner, it’s not a warranty issue. As other have said, 1) check with you car insurance, and 2) get a complete list of needed parts, go on a part hunting expedition and see if you can find them…the internet can really help.

This is insane. That dealer is totaly incompetent.

They should start with fuses, more than likely that is where the fault lies. Next, there are only a few computers in that car, all that could easily be swapped out with known good ones to find the bad one in one days time. Even if you need a new harness - no big deal. With ordering needed parts, one week tops!

Heck, I swapped then entire electrical system and engine from a 2005 Jetta into my 1990 Corrado working (warmer) nights and weekends in under five months over the winter - and that’s a heck of a lot more work!

These guys are dopes. Get your car to a good independent, and refuse to pay them a dime. New Motors Auto Mall?

I want to ditto what texases said.

In addtion, in this day and age of FedEx and other rapid delivery companies, it is unconscionable for it to take longer than a couple of weeks–at most–for parts to arrive from Europe. Something is drastically wrong, and whether the fault lies exclusively with the dealership, exclusively with VW of America, or with both entities jointly, there is definitely something wrong here.

However, as has been previously stated, since this is not a warranty issue, no loaner car is due to you unless your dealership (like mine) has a general policy of providing loaner cars if service/repairs take more than a few hours. One of the things to look into before buying a car is whether the dealership provides loaner cars to their service/repair customers. Perhaps this dealership is one that does not provide loaners.

Assuming when you say “Beetle”, you’re talking “New Beetle”…

I agree with the others that you’re getting royally screwed by the dealer. Of course, this is an out-of-warranty repair. Your comprehensive insurance should cover it. And you don’t need a dealer to fix it – any competent independent should be able to handle it. Get your car out of there FAST, and feel free to make a stink about it.

…if you’re talking about the “Old Beetle” (“Bug”), any shade tree mechanic can fix that with his eyes closed.

Thanks for your reply. Insurance has promised to pay in full for any and all repairs and did pay for a rental for about 3-weeks. I’m sure they consider that a reasonable length of time for repairs, but it has left me with a 9-week car gap.

Thanks for your reply. Those are GREAT suggestions, but unfortunately, the dealership is over over 90 miles away - near the place where the car got hit by lightnining. It would have cost about $600 to tow it 90 miles home so at the time it seemed like a good decision to let the local dealer fix it. We got a rental car and drove home. In retrospect, of course, we probably should have paid to have it towed - but then, hindsight is aways 20-20…

So far, we know it’s the computer module (ECM?) they called it the “brains” of the car. When they put that in, they’ll re-run diagnostics to see if anything else got fried.

Thanks. The insurance company has promised to pay for any and all repairs - should VW ever get around to getting the parts, that is!

My point exactly!
I get that it isn’t covered by warranty, and I get that it is not VWs policy to provide loaners, but if they can’t get parts in a reasonable length of time I think VW owes something to their customers - I’ve been without transportaton for over 12 weeks now!

My insurance company paid for a rental car for about 3 weeks, and has promised to pay for any and all repairs when and if VW ever gets the parts, but what do I do in the meantime?

How about a tow dolly? You should be able to do that for much less, even if you have to rent a truck for a 1/2 day.

Thanks for the suggestion. We’re going to check out that option.

That may be the source of the hold-up. It might be that your insurance company is bickering with the dealership to make sure they are not being cheated. The dealership might have waited for approval from the insurance company before they were willing to order the parts. Perhaps things would go smoother if your car was at a body shop of the insurance company’s choice?