Former TV-journalist who tends to write when irritable. Lover of hockey, everything bagels, and a good Okinawa boba tea.
Roadside Assistance...Or No Assistance
Like many car buyers, I was contacted by Volkswagen when I bought my new Beetle. Usually, I run away from solicitation, but the woman at VW Car-Net told me about a fabulous service offered by VW that I couldn't refuse. For less than $20 a month, I would have access to my own private concierge, updated GPS, and roadside assistance, all at the touch of a little button located in my roof panel. They gave me two free months and told me to try it out. So, I did.
Well, I sort of did. I actually forgot all about the little wrench button over my head, until I received a call from Car-Net letting me know that my free trial was ending. So, after hearing the spiel all over again, I bit the hook.
Roadside assistance is a must-have here in the desert. Although I had other coverage from a private company, as well as my own insurance policy, I felt like the ease of one-button emergency response was priceless. Fast-forward to June, 2019, when I had a horrific clunking, sputtering sound from my engine. I'd discovered my CPO extended warranty had just expired six days prior, but I knew I needed to get my beloved Beetle into the VW dealership for some TLC. So, I suddenly remembered that little illuminated wrench button over my head. I pushed it and waited for the magic to begin.
Sadly, there was no magic. Instead, a young woman from Car-Net answered and went through the expected niceties about my day. I told her I was not having a great day, afterall, I was calling to use my roadside assistance. She took down all of my logistics...where I was, car color, was I in a safe location, etc, and then asked where I wanted my car towed. I explained it needed to go to the dealership, some 4.5 miles away. "No problem," she said confidently, "That will be $99."
So, I mentioned that I had Car-Net roadside assistance as part of my little membership for $20/month.
"Nope, it's $99."
Surely, there was a mistake, so I complained a bit to deaf ears, and hung up, moderately irritated. So, I called the toll-free number from the website. Clearly, this young woman didn't understand the power of VW Car-Net. I reached a young man, explained what had happened, and he proceeded to explain.
"Yes, technically (never a good sign) we do say that we offer 'roadside assistance' but it isn't actually roadside assistance. You can push the button, and we will call and set up a tow truck for you and take your credit card information." Technically not roadside assistance? This is literally not roadside assistance in any way. By now, I was quite perturbed with Car-Net, so I asked if I could speak to someone like a supervisor with the company. "Sorry, there's not actually a company called 'Car-Net.' We are kind of part of Verizon."
Angrier, I spouted, "So let me get this straight...I have been paying $20/month for 22 months because I was told Car-Net included roadside assistance, and the only actual assistance you offer is if both of my hands are broken and I cannot dial my own cell phone, I can push the wrench button and you will take my information to order a tow truck for me that I also have to pay for?"
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"Yes, that's correct," he said. "Well maybe not the part about having two broken hands. But yes, your Car-Net service does not cover any kind of towing feature."
Stunned, I continue, "So what exactly does it cover?"
"Um, it covers when you push it and it connects you to an operator so we can find you a tow service. But no, it's not free."
So, what does the app actually do? It does show me my car's relatively current mileage. It does show me if my doors and/or sunroof are open. It does tell me how much fuel I have in my tank. It does tell me that my car's health is "good to go," even when my injectors all went out and cost me $2000 plus towing to fix. It does show where my car currently is parked.
It does not unlock my car's doors. It does not offer options that my car does not have in it. Finally, it does not offer roadside assistance, even though the salespeople and their webpage contradict that statement:
VW Car-Net® makes your Volkswagen more like a friend. It can provide directions along the way, entertain you, and it can call for assistance in the event of an emergency. It can connect you to the world outside, all from the comfort of your driver’s seat. VW Car-Net is your partner in drive.
In reality, they lie. They do exactly the same thing your smartphone can do, but they charge you for it. When I went in to pick my car up after the $2000 post-warranty repair job I made it a point to ask the finance manager about Car-Net. Seems he knows nothing about it either and suggested I cancel it. He told me that he has OnStar, and it is great. Mentioned that it was really too bad that VW's Car-Net "sucked."
Yes, indeed it is.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2019 Lori Orchow
Scott on October 01, 2019:
I agree with you on this service 100%. For the value it brings it should be maybe $5/month and even then it should be free. When the free trial on my egolf i'm gonna let it go. Only thing i will miss is remotely turning off and on the charge when plugged in but i have used that feature once in 2 months.
Robin on June 21, 2019:
What a disappointing service . I had so many issues with VW service that although I have owned 7 different models I will no longer own one. They are not what they used to be.