Quick Lubes Decry VW Oil Tie-in


The Automotive Oil Change Association has filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission accusing Volkswagen of prescribing its own brand of motor oil in violation of rules against tie-in sales provisions.

The association claimed that the automaker has predicated warranty coverage for some vehicles on use of oil that VW alone is selling – and selling for a whopping $12.25 per quart. Officials said they are concerned not only about the loss of potential business from VW owners, but also about the possibility that other car companies could do likewise.

Obviously this situation has an impact on Volkswagen owners, AOCA Policy Advisor Joanna Johnson said. But were also concerned about the possibility of practices like this being repeated by other manufacturers.

According to the Dallas-based association, Volkswagen issued a technical service bulletin last fall stating that only VW Part No. G 052 167 A2 (motor oil) should be used in 2004 model vehicles with 1.9-liter TDI engines. The bulletin advises that warranty coverage on those vehicles becomes void if owners fail to use the specified oil.

The association’s complaint, filed late last year, alleges that the specified oil is available only at authorized Volkswagen and Audi dealerships, where it is priced at $12.25 per quart. It argued that the bulletin violates the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, which prohibits automakers from making warranties conditioned on use of parts that only they sell.

Johnson noted that Magnuson Moss allows exceptions in cases where there are no alternatives to the recommended part or where the alternatives would not permit the vehicle to operate properly. She maintained, however, that Volkswagen has not shown that the exception applies in this case. In fact, she said, the same TDI engine has been used in previous vehicle models without the requirement to use the Volkswagen oil.

If they have proof that their oil is the only oil that will allow these vehicles to function properly, they can go to the FTC and apply for a waiver, she said. But they havent done that.

Volkswagen officials were unavailable for comment yesterday. Johnson said the oil change association has not received an explanation from the company.

While the service bulletin means a loss of potential business for some quick-lube operators, Johnson said it also tears a hole in the wallet of new VW owners who are scrupulous about following their owners manuals.

We believe owners are going to be alarmed to find that they have to go to a dealer to have their oil changed and that the cost is going to be upwards of $80 to $100, she said.

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