To say that Volkswagen’s product planning has been turned on its head would be an understatement. The company that once bet its success on “Clean Diesel” now says that it might never sell another new diesel vehicle in the United States.
The Volkswagen Group has not asked the government to certify any diesel VW, Porsche, or Audi vehicles for either the 2016 or 2017 model years. Volkswagen executives have said that they won’t be seeking to sell diesels here for the foreseeable future, though Audi has hinted that a diesel may again find a place in the Q7 SUV.
The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal has already cost the company tens of billions of dollars, including a settlement with U.S. regulators and owners that will see the company paying as much as $14.7 billion in buybacks and fines to help offset the environmental damage from the dirty diesels.
Instead of forging ahead with a diesel emissions strategy with vehicles that comply with the existing rules and enhanced scrutiny, the company is pivoting toward an electrified future. According the BBC, Volkswagen may have as many as 30 electrified cars in their portfolio by 2025. That’s an ambitious schedule for a brand that currently has just one electric vehicle on the road in America – the e-Golf.
At the recent Los Angeles International Auto Show, Volkswagen debuted a refreshed version of the e-Golf with an estimated 50 percent improvement in range (to 124 miles on a single charge). Horsepower is also boosted by 19 horsepower to 134 in the 2017 model. They’ve also displayed a concept electric van called the BUDD-e with technology that may spawn the return of the Volkswagen Bus.
If you have your heart set on a diesel-powered passenger car, SUV, or light-duty pickup, there are others in the market that still offer them. Chevy will soon have a diesel version of the compact Cruze sedan and the 2017 Mazda CX-5 will be offered with a diesel engine. They join BMW and Mercedes, who already have diesel luxury vehicles on American roads. Jeep offers a diesel version of the Grand Cherokee, as does Chevy with the Colorado compact pickup.
What About Used Diesels?
The question as to whether Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche or their dealers will ever sell used diesels again is an interesting one. The court settlement that covers VW and Audi 2.0-liter turbodiesel models states that they cannot sell any vehicles that they have bought back until they have been modified to meet U.S. emissions standards. They also cannot export them to other countries with more lenient emissions rules until they have been modified to the American standards.
No settlement has been reached for owners of 3.0-liter diesel models from VW, Audi, and Porsche, but it’s almost certain that an eventual deal will have similar restrictions on their modification and resale.
If Volkswagen is able to come up with an acceptable fix that doesn’t have disastrous effects on mileage or performance, it’s conceivable that they might attempt to resell some of the more recent and high-value models back to U.S. consumers on the used car market after they complete modifications.
A specific fix for the cars has yet to be announced, but it is unlikely that older TDI models can be economically updated to meet regulatory standards. Later models will likely only need minor hardware and software changes, but older models might require the addition of an exhaust aftertreatment system that would take up cargo space and be prohibitively expensive to install.
A deeply discounted 2016 Volkswagen Passat TDI, 2016 Porsche Cayenne Diesel, or 2015 Audi A3 TDI could be an attractive used car, especially if sold at the right price and with some factory-backed warranty coverage. Any cash that the Volkswagen Group could recoup from those sales could be used to offset the massive amounts of money that the diesel emissions scandal has cost them.
There are more than 550,000 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche vehicles sold in the U.S that contained an illegal defeat device that would sense emissions testing and place the vehicle in a much cleaner mode than it would ever operate in on the road.
The Volkswagen Diesel Emissions scandal broke in September 2015, and since then, the company, its dealers, and consumers have been battling in legal proceedings around the world to determine appropriate settlements, fines, and other punishments. Volkswagen’s diesel saga is far from over, though a settlement for owners of 3.0-liter TDI models expected soon.