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Car & Driver: Volkswagen Won’t Attempt to Regain Diesel Leadership In U.S.; Many TDI Models May Never Return


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VW Diesel TDI Jetta
-The big diesel initiative that once saw more than one in five Volkswagens sold in America wearing the TDI label has now kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible. Volkswagen’s new North American operations chief says the company’s push to establish clean, affordable diesel powertrains as its green technology solution is over. That may come as little surprise to most observers in the wake of the emissions scandal, but initially the company was suggesting diesel was merely stunned and would come around. It listed 2016 models of the Golf, Jetta, and Passat with TDI engines in its catalog but under stop-sale, pending EPA approval of a technology solution that would bring their emissions of nitrogen oxides into regulatory compliance.


Now we have it from the top. Hinrich J. Woebcken, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, told us, “I wish to make clear that the push for diesel for the brand is done” in North America. In an interview following our drive of the company’s upcoming mid-size SUV in Chattanooga, Woebcken said, “We don’t foresee that the strength of diesel will come back for this market.” He spoke in answer to our question regarding when he expected certification of 2017-model TDI engines and said he wanted to make clear that he was speaking only for the VW brand on this continent, suggesting diesel may still play a large role for the company’s other brands and in other markets. Woebcken has headed up VW’s reorganized North American operations since April 1, when he succeeded the first executive appointed to that position, Winfried Vahland, who had resigned only two months after his appointment last fall.




Once Volkswagen gets regulatory approval of its proposed fix for its polluting four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, now anticipated by mid-October, it had been expected to apply that same technology to new TDI models. In reality, the taint of the scandal, together with the likely cost of the technology needed to ensure full compliance, probably spells an end to compression-ignition in mass market VWs, though it may survive in niche applications. “We will still offer diesel in specific products and packages where it seems appropriate,” Woebcken said, “but we are looking to a future of electric mobility.


“Because of upcoming regulations, the diesel would have seen a limited future, regardless” of the scandal, he added. So maybe there will be a TDI offered in the premium-price Touareg SUV, but if a diesel goes into that new, as-yet-unnamed three-row SUV being built in Chattanooga, it will be in models built for export. He didn’t say so in as many words but implied we’ve seen the last North American diesel models of the Golf, Jetta, Beetle, and probably Passat.


Although Woebcken spoke forcefully of envisioning a near future in which hybrid and electric car sales outnumber those of internal-combustion models, his company’s pivot toward electrification isn’t entirely market driven. Regulators, particularly those from California and other states that follow its lead on emissions rules, have argued successfully that the court-ordered settlement of the emissions violations include a corporate commitment to sales of large numbers of electric vehicles.


Before even thinking about certifying new diesel cars for sale here, Woebcken said, the company’s priority is to resolve the ongoing emissions violation case in a way that sets the stage to restore the company’s reputation with consumers, dealers, and regulators. “Our first priority is to implement the TDI fix. We want to do it professionally using the buyback/fix option in a very German, engineered way. We are still in the approval process and preparing the dealers. First and foremost is to solve this at a high satisfaction level, fix it, and go on from there.”


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