Actually, the Japanese in this case wouldn't have much to fix as their cars are more reliable than VW. I doubt very much that VW has even dreamt of Toyota or Honda relibility (JDPA surveys).
VW are fun and good looking cars, but they fall short of quality.
How can you possibly judge the build quality of a car by driving and sitting in it? VW certainly have their look and feel for quality right, but when it comes down to reliability I'd bet my money on any Japanese car over VW.
VW quality not as good as the Japanese? You're joking, right? I've owned vehicles from both camps and can say that my experience has been that the Golf has it all over the Corolla in build quality, although they have both been faultlessly reliable. Recently upgraded my '02 Lexus to a Passat and couldn't be happier. Both VW and the Japanese build brilliant cars. The main difference I have found is that the VW is somehow a more interesting and charismatic vehicle, while the Toyota and Lexus have been little more than quality appliances. As much as I hated the ad campaign in the US, I think VW simply has a better understanding of 'Fahrvergnugen' - the joy of driving.
To be fair to the guy, he did say according to JDPA surveys and didn't simply 'make it up'. Some very defensive VAG owners on here ready to justify the high premiums...
For my two cents of driving both VAG and Japanese cars, and what my friends have said, I would agree VAG have much higher quality. The Honda's and Toyota's are all solid enough, but shut the door of a VAG and you can tell the difference. However whilst nobody I know complains about their Japanese car going wrong, plenty of VAG owners seem to be taking the car to the garage a lot, especially on these newer ones. And a quick search through this site does seem to uphold this view.
I am a VW enthusiast and have owned a number of air cooled and water cooled cars over the years. My personal experience with the late model cars has been excellent, but have to concur that Toyota, Honda, etc do provide a greater degree of 'set and forget' reliability. That being said, I own VWs for the Fahvergnugen - the joy of driving. I have not found a Japanese car in the same price range as the Europeans that has the same driver appeal while still being a comfortable day to day vehicle. Bear in mind that the youngest air cooled VWs are 30 years old and were at the end of their development cycle, so you can't expect them to be as reliable as a newer car. The most reliable car I have ever owned was a 2000 Kia Rio (*cringe*). It didn't handle, wasn't quick, and the interior was made from old CD cases, but after 230,000km of abuse I sold it without a single thing going wrong.
Are we talking about different types of quality here?
Perceived quality = the bits you can see and touch, and the driving experience.
Reliability = Effectively how durable the product is. How many faults the car has during its lifetime.
It's not really the same thing, is it.
I am interested in buying a VW, but I am concerned on servicing and part costs, are they extremely high like such of BMWs because they are a nice looking car? And for the argument above, although I have not owned a VW, I can tell you now no car will compare in reliability to Toyatas, but who wants to drive an ugly under performing heap of crap.