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Here’s an intriguing anomaly: A recent study comparing automakers’ online reputations found Volkswagen has one of the best in the business. But when Consumer Reports’ surveyed owners of recent cars, a whopping 49% of VW drivers regretted buying their car.

First, let’s look at how Volkswagen got such a good reputation. The Widewail SEO consulting firm crunched through countless reviews of various car models, as well as individual dealerships. The result was an in-depth look at each company’s online reputation.

Volkswagen got 80/100 overall. That earned it seventh place of 32 companies. In fact, it beat out Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, and Volvo. Volkswagen’s most popular 2023 model was the Tiguan, and that earned an average ranking of 4.63/5. That model got 10th out of the 32 best-selling models studied, so it helped VW’s ranking.

A blue 2024 VW Jetta
2024 Volkswagen Jetta | Volkswagen

According to reviews, VWs greatest strengths are its staff (called out in 55% of positive reviews), and its sales departments specifically. They were mentioned in 42% of positive reviews. Specifically, communication was mentioned in 13.72% of positive reviews, which was rare for automakers.

So what kept VW from getting the first place reputation? Reviewers mentioned maintenance in 37.21% of negative reviews. And with a lot of VWs requiring maintenance, you won’t be shocked that wait times came up in 28.71% of reviews. When Consumer Reports’ surveyed owners, they had plenty of complaints in addition to maintenance problems.

Consumer Reports asked drivers about several categories. VW came in dead-last in two of them. The first was the driving experience, which includes both handling and acceleration. The second was “usability.” That includes categories such as climate controls, gear selector, ease of using the infotainment system, etc.

A man inspects the tire on a car
Inspecting tires | Tzido via iStock

Finally, drivers were asked if they would buy the same car again–if given the chance. Only 51% of VW owners said yes. The only brand with higher buyers’ remorse was Infiniti, so VW came in dead-last among non-luxury brands.

So what’s going on here? It appears that VW dealerships have great staffs and competent salespeople. They excel at communicating with customers. But buyers are experiencing a ton of remorse when the drivability and ease of use lets them down. They also complain most loudly about maintenance.

If VW’s main problem is buyers’ remorse, its fantastic reputation and sales teams may actually be hurting it. Having a much better reputation than Detroit automakers and other German companies may be a recipe for letdown when VWs prove to be just regular cost-effective cars with regular problems.

Next, read how Volkswagen botched a 300,000-car recall, or see a rundown of the VW models to buy and the ones to avoid in the video below: