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Hello everyone. I've been lurking here since shortly before my fiancee & I bought a 2011 Candy White / Cornsilk Sportwagen TDI. Looks like a great, informative forum. This is the first Volkswagen for either of us. We've both owned mostly Hondas / Acuras recently, sprinkled with a few other makes in the past. We're very pleased, except for a recent experience I'll get to further down.

Her Civic hybrid was getting rough around the edges at 80,000 miles, and rather than waiting for the CVT shoe to drop or the battery to weaken, we went looking for something with a bit more polish, but also more utility, and equal or better gas mileage.

Seemed like a tough bill to fill. We liked some of the mini-utes, but ultimately we decided the big wheels & high centers of gravity of truck-shaped vehicles were too inefficient. Started looking at wagons and crossovers with good gas mileage, and quickly found the Sportwagen TDI. 42 mpg was better than the Civic Hybrid got, and more cargo room too, in a great-looking car? Seemed perfect.

Drove it and loved it. We both worried 140 hp would be sluggish, but that big diesel torque really does make the difference. Bought around March this year, with the 17" Porto alloys and the panoramic roof. I got the iPod Media Device Interface as part of the negotiations. We paid invoice plus one "non-negotiable" dealer fee.

And, it's been great. We're around 5,000 miles already. Got the new crossbars to mount the kayak, and a trailer hitch and a new Thule bike rack. Drives, handles, and parks like a solid European car -- reminds us both of BMWs we've driven, albeit obviously not as fast. She loves the Sirius radio. Perfect for our typical weekend roadtrips. Gas mileage has been a bit short of the 42 mpg max, but we get mid-high 30's even with a 17' kayak on the roof. And she's still breaking in.

Aaaand then ... Coming home from a kayak outing this weekend, we stopped off to eat, and when we got back in, it wouldn't start. Battery was clearly fine, and the engine turned over smooth as could be, then shut down within two seconds with the squiggly "engine management" warning light and a message on the dash about the immobilizer. Repetition gave identical results.

After considerable frustration getting it towed (late on Sunday -- dealerships closed) and a bit more frustration when our otherwise friendly dealer was baffled and suggested maybe "someone" -- us? tried to break into the car, we were getting a little annoyed, until they called to say the VW tech's intranet-type community had reported a few instances of the *instrument panel* software conflicting with the immobilizer. And VW has a fix. They will replace the entire instrument panel with one with new "encoding."

Today they called to say the instrument panel is on *national backorder*, and huge shipment is due to the state distribution center next week. The dealership believes this may mean a nationwide recall is pending.

Good news, in that they believe they have a complete fix. Maybe bad news for 2011 Sportwagen (and other models?) owners, who may have to come in for a new instrument cluster to make sure their car doesn't suddenly start shutting itself down.

Did a search earlier on immobilizer issues, and saw it's a recurring theme with Volkswagen, but nothing on this particular issue or an impending recall.

I'd be interested in anything anyone else has heard on this issue. I've done a general search on immobilizer issues, and didn't see it.

Sorry for the miniseries-length post, but I wanted to give a proper newbie introduction and not just cannonball into your pool with the technical issue. :)

Thanks. - Z.
 

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Yeah, coming from a Civic hybrid, what isn't not sluggish :D

The immobilizer will NOT be activated even if someone breaks into the car. The alarm is a separate system and that has the starter interlock.

This is the first 2011 instrument cluster immobilizer problem I've heard and internet forums are mostly problems....but you don't hear everything anyways. I believe your contact at the dealer doesn't know what they are talking about. You could just have a bad instrument cluster though. At least they didn't blame you by misfueling the car:panic:

welcometomyturbodies
 

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Discussion Starter #3
The Civic handled well, but acceleration was barely adequate. The JSW is a beast by comparison.

Don't know if the Dealer techs are nuts or not. Kinda hope they're right so this fixes the issue. We love the car, and our kayak's grounded until we get it back. No racks on my little hatchback. :D

Edit: By the way, Chitty, your avatar is the exact warning light we were getting. Freaked us out until we looked it up, which really was no comfort either. 8)
 

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Welcome to the forum Zaphod. welcometomyturbodies
The Civic handled well, but acceleration was barely adequate. The JSW is a beast by comparison.
In your dreams the Type R Civic with 198bhp will leave a Jetta Estate in the dust.
 

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In your dreams the Type R Civic with 198bhp will leave a Jetta Estate in the dust.
Thanks for the welcome, Keith.

But you read that I was talking about a 127 hp Civic Hybrid, right? :D

My other car is a nicely modded Acura RSX Type S. Type R cams, Hondata ECU, race header, etc. :D :D

I'd actually still say the JSW, while not as fast overall, has better top-gear passing performance than my 200+ hp Acura. Torque's not everything, but it's something.

Edit: I want your GTD. If they ever bring it here, it's my next car.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Update

Getting a little frustrated, with the "it'll get here when it gets here" message we got when we called to check in today, I insisted (against some resistance from our tech) in talking to the service manager, who was apologetic and reiterated the backorder situation. His best guess is having the part in by NEXT Tuesday, and performing the fix the same day.

Sounds like one whale of a backorder.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Update

Got the car back today -- earlier than the service manager's (probably wisely padded) estimate of Tuesday. Everything seems fine. Can't see where they removed the "instrument pod" itself, so I wonder if it wasn't just a computer module behind the dash somewhere.

Still waiting to see whether this is an issue VW will address nationally, through a recall or otherwise. Depends on how common the problem is, I'd imagine. But the possibility of leaving owners stranded suggests to me they ought to address it aggressively to protect the brand, if nothing else.
 

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If they replaced the cluster it all came out. The module is built into the cluster: http://www.myturbodiesel.com/1000q/a6/mk6-golf-jetta-sportwagen-instrument-cluster-removal.htm.
That's consistent with what they told us they were doing. I was a little worried there'd be visible signs of such a significant remove / replace inside the car. Can't see a thing.

It does look like some ninny took an orbital polisher to the hood and made some fine scratches in the finish. Probably should instruct them not to wash it next time, like I do at the Acura place. Hopefully it's just in the Zaino protectant and not too deep into the clear coat.
 

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Zaphod,
Same problem just happened to me with Sportwagen that we've had for 2 mo and 1900 miles! On vaca in Crested Butte, CO and went 4 miles to town for coffee, and then the Immobilizer kicked in. Called VW roadside assist and they immediately rallied the tow truck. That was the good news. Bad news was closest dealer was 90 miles away in Glenwood Springs over the 30 mile dirt road mountain pass shortcut. 3.5 hrs later arrived at the dealer. Long story short, the dealer got me right in and fixed it in short order by disconnecting the battery and connecting the two battery wires together for 5 min. Dealer said this was to discharge the capacitors and that they had only ever seen this once before with a 09 Beatle. Hmm... no mention of replacing the instrument cluster but I will ask my home dealer about it when I get back. The dealer I went to yesterday was great and the situation I found myself in could have been much worse but this experience has really eroded my confidence in this car. This immobilizer "feature" could be a real liability if it kicks in during a life threatening situation. Its not hard to imagine situations where this issue could take someone's life. I'll be writing VW about this formally.

P.S. First question VW roadside asked was if I was in a safe place... I got a laugh since honestly I can't imagine a safer place and on that note, there was no possibility that someone tried to steal the car here.
 

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Yeah, coming from a Civic hybrid, what isn't not sluggish :D

The immobilizer will NOT be activated even if someone breaks into the car. The alarm is a separate system and that has the starter interlock.

This is the first 2011 instrument cluster immobilizer problem I've heard and internet forums are mostly problems....but you don't hear everything anyways. I believe your contact at the dealer doesn't know what they are talking about. You could just have a bad instrument cluster though. At least they didn't blame you for misfueling the car

welcometomyturbodies
hahahahahaha Chitty. They did ask my wife if she misfuel her 2011 2.5 GAS when the immobilizer stranded us 15 miles from home on a Sunday evening. Took a week at the dealership to fix and all they told us was it was a loose wire in the cluster.
 
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