CONSUMER WATCH | A1 owner loses love for Audi over infotainment issues and poor repair quality

17 August 2023 - 09:49
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An Audi A1 40 TFSI S-Line similar to the one owned by Nalini Parshotam.
An Audi A1 40 TFSI S-Line similar to the one owned by Nalini Parshotam.
Image: Supplied

An Audi A1 owner remains worried about recurring glitches plaguing her vehicle, primarily related to the infotainment and connectivity systems. In addition, she feels aggrieved about the level of service experienced from a panel-beater approved by the manufacturer.

Nalini Parshotam purchased her A1 Sportback 40 TFSI S-Line new in 2020. She claims that for the past three years, she has been involved in a back-and-forth with Audi Centre Rivonia: the vehicle is booked in and examined, but the issues affecting the Multi-Media Interface (MMI) system seem to keep resurfacing.

“My infotainment system has been replaced, as well as the voltage stabiliser, in addition to numerous upgrades and this problem persists,” she explained.

Parshotam told TimesLIVE Motoring she was informed the infotainment oddities exhibited by her A1 were isolated. She reached out to us after reading about a similar case involving a Volkswagen Golf 8 GTI earlier this year.

Erratic Android Auto connectivity, lagging screen response, unwanted resetting of the on-board clock and error messages warning that functions cannot be performed, were among the complaints listed in various email threads between the customer and the dealership.

Parshotam had shared images and videos of her experiences, including a clip showing unresponsive volume buttons (both the central rotary dial and steering-mounted control).

As part of the initial troubleshooting process, she was informed by a service adviser to avoid using media devices with the vehicle to “isolate external influences from the standard MMI system”.

Frustrated, she raised the point of purchasing a vehicle with connectivity offerings only to find that they do not work. Despite taking the advice, she found the infotainment system peculiarities persisted.

She also encountered an issue where the fuel tank lid had refused to unlock, prompting another visit to the Rivonia dealership at the beginning of March.

Correspondence acknowledged that a few months prior, the vehicle was kept by the dealership for a week to replicate the issues.

According to Audi Hatfield Rivonia, the concerns raised by the owner could not be replicated despite using various smartphone devices and cables. It said no faults were logged by the diagnostics system either.

However, it was noted that with regards to the locked fuel-filler cover, “sporadic faults were recorded on the ECU” and were “related to the instrument cluster, which potentially could interfere with [the] infotainment connection”.

Parshotam was confused by the correspondence, which concluded by stating the workshop would need to reach out to Audi directly for further clarity — and the vehicle would have to be booked in again. A courtesy vehicle was provided.

Feedback from the dealership on March 13 stated the infotainment issues could not be replicated. She was asked to observe the system on a forthcoming drive to the Eastern Cape.

On June 6 she drove straight to the dealership when faults resurfaced. “I used the phone icon, searched and dialled, then the note popped up stating that the function cannot be performed.”

The vehicle was checked in. While there, it was also identified that a software update pertaining to the power steering system was required.

In addition to the infotainment issues, Parshotam had a gripe about the experience she had at an Audi-approved body shop, Elite Autobody. The vehicle was taken in for repairs to the bumper and wheel. On collection, she noted that the paint on the repaired bumper did not match the rest of the vehicle.

She informed her insurance broker and questioned the validity of the panel-beater's status as being Audi-approved, referencing a certificate from 2002. She approached the manufacturer, who arranged for an assessment by chemicals company BASF, which found that the paint colour did not match.

“Audi SA still will not give feedback on how Elite Autobody is compliant, as they messed my car colour and did wheel alignment for a 2010 A1 standard suspension and not a 2020 A1 sport suspension.”

“Elite also messed with my rims — the rim on the right hit the crater pothole but the left rim is found to be buckled.”

She said her insurance company's assessor queried the scuff mark on her vehicle's rim, which prompted her to take the rim for an independent assessment to prove it had been swapped around.

“Given all these irregularities with Elite Autobody, Audi SA cannot give me an answer as to the way forward, the compliance as this impacts the warranty and trade-in of my vehicle.”

Parshotam shared correspondence from an Audi specialist in the office of the MD, which provided a link to a list of Audi-approved repairers, under which Elite Autobody is listed.

We approached Wayne Masters, director of Elite Autobody.

“With regard to the Audi certificate dated 2002 — this is the issue date and not the expiry date,” he said. “Audi does a comprehensive audit on all their motor body repairers annually, if you fail this audit the approval and signage is removed.”

Regarding Parshotam's vehicle, Masters confirmed that repair work was first undertaken in May.

“The client pointed out the she feels there is a colour difference between the bumper and the metal fenders. We explained to the client that the colour is correct and what she is seeing is the same difference as her rear bumper, this typically happens when you spray the same paint on a metal panel then a plastic panel.”

Masters confirmed the vehicle was brought back to have the fenders blended and was still dissatisfied, after which the report from BASF was sought.

He said a meeting was held at Elite Autobody with Parshotam, a representative from BASF and the customer's insurer.

“They informed the client that the colour was correct but the clear coat needed to be polished and remove some imperfections. At this stage it was agreed to return for 30 minutes to have the polishing done.

“Audi South Africa also followed up with ourselves throughout the process of the complaint. No alignment issue was discussed with ourselves at the meeting. On Tuesday August 8 the client returned with the car and the clear coat polished [sic].”

She was made to sign a job card, on which she wrote she was not in agreement that the colour was correctly matched.

We shared Parshotam's complaint with the Audi South Africa communications team for comment on June 28.

It said it had been made aware of the owner's concern and noted that the dealership (Audi Rivonia) had requested the vehicle be brought in for assessment. Audi said once this was concluded, it would be in a better position to comment.

“With regard to the paint concern experienced by Ms Parshotam, Audi SA had the paint inspected by an independent paint expert. It was recommended that the vehicle be returned to the motor body repairer for corrective action.”

Offering a final comment this week, Audi stated that Parshotam booked her A1 in on July 18. “The dealer carried out all tests on the radio unit and the customer has confirmed that the radio is working properly and that she will monitor it.”

According to Parshotam, technicians disconnected the battery, allowing the vehicle's systems to reset. Once reconnected, she claims she was advised to operate her smartphone on a 2G network setting.

“Imagine operating your smartphone on 2G. [The customer care representative] wanted me to confirm all is fine with the car and I said I would be lying, as it is an intermittent problem, so I cannot say it was resolved with a change to 2G, since putting the smartphone on 2G it is hard to actually talk because of network connectivity.”

Parshotam said she was ignored when she asked the specialist at customer care what would happen if the infotainment connectivity issues resurface, and whether she would be subjected to the same process without a clear fix.

We checked back with the Audi SA communications department about the 2G recommendation — it said its response on August 14 remains unchanged.

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