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Car and Driver: Volkswagen Exec Says U.S. Sales of Its Diesels May Never Recover


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2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL VR6

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Volkswagen’s diesel-emissions scandal involves corporate lying, extra nasty pollutants in the air, and massive budget slashing and product-plan reorganizations at one of the world’s largest automakers. Of course, at the heart of the issue sit the cars, which remain stop-saled in the U.S. All software cheats aside, Volkswagen’s TDI models are paragons of efficiency and fun, offering crisply tuned dynamics, manual transmissions, and gobs of torque in sedans, hatchbacks, and crossovers that can return as much as 50 mpg.

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Now, if recent comments from U.S. CEO Hinrich Woebcken prove totally true, Volkswagen may never sell those cars here in large volume ever again. “We are not stopping diesel. Wherever diesel makes sense as a package to the car, we’ll continue,” Woebcken told Automotive News. “But in reality, we have to accept that the high percentage of diesels that we had before will not come back again.”

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We’ve already detailed Volkswagen’s ambitious plans to have 30 electric models by 2025 and how it’s been forced by the U.S. government to invest billions in charging stations and other state-level environmental initiatives over the next several years as part of its settlement.  Yet Volkswagen’s TDI models represented nearly a quarter of all its U.S. sales before sales were halted in October last year, and VW’s monthly sales have been down year over year since. Dealers are complaining about their compensation for lost revenue.

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If Woebken’s comments bear out, the company will need to find a replacement for all that volume—and fast. Volkswagen hasn’t applied for new diesel sales certifications, per the AN report, and the once-popular Jetta, Golf, Beetle, and Audi A3 TDI models—and to a lesser extent, the more expensive Audi and Porsche diesels—have left a huge gap. Yet while sales may be somewhat depressed due to the scandal, it’s easy to see these models once again proving popular if Volkswagen began reselling them tomorrow. It’s not as if buyers have been gobbling up the all-electric e-Golf or the recently canceled Jetta hybrid.

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We just don’t know how drastic a reduction in diesel sales Woebcken is referencing, but going bearish means the company won’t be embarrassed if sales indeed do not rebound in a significant way. VW’s upcoming three-row crossover and next-generation Tiguan should provide boosts, but there’s no denying the damage the scandal has caused to VW’s bottom line.

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