By on November 23, 2016

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Volkswagen will no longer bring diesel-powered vehicles into the United States, ending speculation that the company may have simply placed the technology on hiatus while the emissions-cheating snafu remained fresh in American minds.

Initially reported by Handelsblatt and confirmed by Reuters via a VW spokesman, the announcement was made by Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess. “We currently anticipate that we will no longer offer new diesel vehicles in the United States,” Diess explained.

With diesels once making up a fourth of VW’s U.S. sales, it is unlikely the decision came easy. After being slapped with a $14.7 billion settlement resulting from the emissions-cheating scandal, this was likely the prudent move. However, there was plenty of forewarning leading up to the final decision.

At last week’s Los Angeles Auto Show, Volkswagen Group of America CEO Hinrich Woebcken told reporters he didn’t believe diesel would ever “come back in the same magnitude as we’ve seen it up to now.”

“Emissions standards in following years are getting tougher and tougher,” Woebcken said. “Why don’t you put the money and investments … to comply with these standards, why don’t you put the money on the spot where the future is?”

Volkswagen probably knows the limitations of diesel technology and emissions compliance better than anyone at this point. Although we’ll have to wait and see if it can predict the automotive future.

Europe, which doesn’t impose the same strict regulations on nitrogen oxide emissions as the United States does, will continue to see VW-produced diesels. Meanwhile, North America is expected to see an influx of Volkswagen SUVs and a hard push from the company to build electric vehicles — which is that “spot” Woebcken thinks the future may be.

That future includes nineteen sport utility vehicles by 2020 and one million EVs sold by 2025. Those goals are extremely ambitious, considering the company’s recent hardships and VW’s CEO, Matthias Müller, being so openly dubious of public reaction to EVs in Europe.

“There is no supply shortage, there is a demand shortage,” Müller said of electric cars. “On one hand, many Germans think and act green, but when it comes to electric mobility, they wrinkle their noses. I have a hard time understanding this phenomenon.”

It sounds as if the United States may have to do some of the heavy lifting to help Volkswagen accomplish its million-unit sales goal.

With VW pulling diesel motors out of North America entirely and Mercedes-Benz considering it, that leaves Chevrolet and Mazda as the primary torchbearers. Volkswagen said it was considering allowing Audi to continue on with diesel engines, but that it would limit production solely to the Q7.

In an ironic twist, the upcoming VW Atlas SUV, built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will offer a diesel variant solely for Russian customers.

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40 Comments on “Volkswagen Ditches Diesel Technology in the United States...”


  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    I thought diesel was dying in North American when the announced Mazda 6 never made it, and that was well before the VW kerfuffle. As for the pickup and heavy duty side, all the emissions add-ons and DEF have made diesel an expensive option and a less reliable one it seems. The age of bullet proof 500,000 mile diesels may be at an end. With turbo gas motors producing much better low end torque, I see that fulfilling the needs of 90% of people out there.

    I wonder what Ford could do with a lightly turbocharged 5.0?

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Yes, and gasoline direct-injected engines are taking up the slack by producing high levels of particulate matter. There is no free lunch.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @redmondjp
        Well the Ozone level will not be as affected, but you will probably die early from a Cancer due to particulates

      • 0 avatar
        sarcheer

        EPA/CARB standards say otherwise regarding PM emissions.

        “http://www.theicct.org/tier-3-nprm”
        “http://www.theicct.org/controlling-gdi-particulate-emissions”

        My DI Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is rated at 0.01 g/mi, the same as every other gas engine vehicle under the Tier 3/ LEV III emission standards going into effect.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      Actually DEF has improved diesel reliability overall as it generally results in less use of EGR to control NOx. Less EGR = less soot and resultant problems with the diesel particulate filter, variable geometry turbo and other components. There have been some issues with DEF freezing or fluid contamination, but most of those problems have been solved either through regulatory changes that allow more time to thaw or greater awareness regarding DEF shelf life and testing methods on the retail and service side of the equation.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        But hasn’t there been a noticeable impact on mpg? Seems the pre 2006 Merc and Cummins got much better mpg. VW too, but they’re ba bye.

        btw, the VW curse remains in force. VW builds a US plant and their NA conquest plans hit the crapper. Big time. Who will ultimately buy that TN plant when VW needs the money for future product starved by the diesel debacle payouts?

        btw2, I wouldn’t touch anything VW does EV-wise for years and then only by lease. Hope over experience – not me – I owned a VW and I still have the bad taste of VW non-reliability in my mouth.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          Older pre-EGR diesels did get better mileage, true enough. Once EGR and lean NOx trap catalysts came along, fuel economy suffered. Funny that you mention 2006 as that is when Dodge/Cummins launched the 6.7L with the lean NOx trap catalyst, which used a lot of fuel to regenerate the catalyst and convert the stored NOx into harmless gases.

          DEF has improved fuel economy dramatically since EGR usage is reduced (allowing the combustion process to work at higher temps/more efficiently) and the need to dump as much fuel into a NOx adsorber catalyst to regenerate it is reduced. Of course the fuel economy improvement is somewhat offset by the cost of DEF, but DEF can be obtained relatively cheaply in bulk.

  • avatar
    mleitman

    What about Canada?

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Some guy on the internet said OEMs are all going to push diesels because new CAFE. That scared me!

    I don’t want to have to first pay more for the diesel car and then more for the diesel sludge it runs on.

    Can this be true?

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      They’ll push EVs instead now. The US has no big diesel lobby, the way Europe does. Over there, small diesels are their version of our pickup trucks: A safe haven where they can make hefty profits without undue interference from abroad.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        OK! I’m good with EVs!
        Thanks, I feel far less threatened.

        (I pathologically hate diesel and #2 fuel oil from my days of working on stuff that used them. F*cking CNS poisons, da bot’ of em!)

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “Thanks, we’ll take that segment!”

    – The rest of the U.S. auto industry

    Their excuse about regs is such male cow excrement. Their diesel portfolio is radioactive now, so they’re tucking tail. Another bone-headed move if you ask me, like not selling a relatively affordable large CUV until…well, they’re STILL not doing that quite yet.

    What’s sad is, VW used to have the guts to make fun of itself. I think they could resurrect their diesel brand and actually sell a lot of cars with a return to that self-deprecating (and contrite) marketing.

    Just for the sake of example: “ACTUALLY Clean Diesel” or “Make Diesel Great Again!” (not at all saying they should go for these, just something along those lines).

    Instead they’re giving up and letting others fill the small but viable void. It smacks of cowardice – not the quality you want in your multinational megacorp.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    welp, the proof will be in how well the Cruze and Equinox diesels sell. if they don’t, then it’s just more evidence that VW TDI buyers were a particular bunch.

    GM better step on it, though, or they’ll miss out on selling any to TDI owners taking the buy back.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    The advantages of diesel went out the window with all the modern emissions standards.

    I completely understand diesel if you have severe towing needs in a truck, but in a car, it makes little sense. The torque down low is nice, but otherwise you have a vehicle where the fuel costs more money, has pricey fuel filters, has urea to fill, expensive injectors, expensive fuel pump, etc. And after all that, it’s still pretty dirty.

    I also sense that CAFE is going to be severely reformed with the new Administration, as the 54.5 mpg average was completely unrealistic, so the need for diesels to pad that mpg number will not be necessary.

  • avatar
    threeer

    In other shocking news, Tuesday follows Monday on the calendar.

    I’m not surprised at the decision from VW. While diesels made up a decent percentage of their sales, the negative association with “DieselGate” will last a while. And I’m sure very few dealers (the true customer of the manufacturer) have the stomach to let new diesels sit on the lot for extended periods of time. As with most other manufacturers, moar CUV/SUV seems to be the going answer.

    Interestingly, spent time in a diesel Amarok bouncing precariously closely to the border of a country I’d rather not name. Not a bad little truck, not that I see it having a ton of success in the US…but I’d not be ashamed to be seen in one.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    VW needs to market the performance similarities of diesel and EVs, meaning torque and economy, and a consumer willing to use ‘special’ fuel.

    In a way, VW is fortunate to not have diesel trucks in the US, since all of its TDI line could be replaced with current EV technology. But their customers won’t wait until 2021.

    Also, I wonder if the Russia-bound, Chattanooga-built Atlas TDI will have clean software.

  • avatar
    RHD

    I just had an epiphany, or an idea, or maybe a brain fart, brought on by the Germans hesitating at electric vehicles.
    What if electric car batteries were uniformly sized, and easily removed and replaced? Normal gasoline vehicles could pick one up,
    set it in their car’s charger, drive until it’s charged (from a high-output alternator), then drop it off at a fueling station, at which they would be paid a fee for the charging service, and they would pick up another battery. Lyft and Uber drivers could supplement their income. Commuters could make their drudgery just a little less unpleasant.
    Recharging a Leaf, or Tesla, or Toyota or whatever would take as long as filling up with gas. Truckers could charge up a dozen at a time, and drop them off at a truck stop. Electric refueling would be available just about anywhere, so recharging in the middle of the desert or up in the mountains would no longer be a problem.
    Copyright 2016, all rights reserved!

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      It seems to me that standardized quick-replaceable batteries would be the answer to the long charging time resistance to EVs. As I recall that Israeli startup A Better Place had that business model but couldn’t make a go of it.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @jpolicke
        They had stations in Australia, but economically, the model was not viable

      • 0 avatar
        HotPotato

        The tragedy of Better Place is that they were overcapitalized and spent like drunken sailors instead of beta-testing on a small scale in Israel and then Denmark, as was the original plan. If the company had enjoyed better leadership, I honestly believe we’d all be pulling into battery-swap stations by now, the same way we’ve always pulled into gas stations. But with long-range batteries becoming more common and DC fast charge infrastructure spreading, the time for that model may have passed.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @RHD
      ” Rapid” charging of batteries is a misnomer, they still take a longish time. One thing not discussed is fires and what happens in an accident?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      @RHD: Both Tesla and Better Place have tried and failed at doing this.

      Tesla even demonstrated how they could change the Model S battery *twice* in the same time it takes to fill an A8 with gasoline.

      Unfortunately, such an idea is fraught with problems:
      1. Inconvenient locations for battery swapping.
      2. No standards for battery mounting, voltages, gas gauging, or in-car charging.
      3. Billing challenges – degraded batteries, recouping infrastructure cost, security.
      4. Storing fully charged batteries is unhealthy for the battery.
      5. Charging at home is really easy and cheap.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Where does this decision leave the new unsold ’15 and ’16 models? Will they try to render them compliant and sell them or just scrap them? This of course assumes that a software fix is even possible, which I’m skeptical about.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @jpolicke
    They are thinking of selling some Audi SUV diesels but not VW

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That won’t happen. VAG diesels are now radioactive in the US, and no buyer will risk the performance, service, and resale challenges that a ‘fixed’ Audi diesel would present. The fewer TDIs VAG has to service in this market, the better.

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @SCE to AUX
    Personally that would have been my opinion , I could not see diesels getting over the line in the US. Outside the US, they are going gangbusters selling diesels

  • avatar
    klossfam

    Still waiting for the other shoe to drop on MB and BMW…also the FCA 3.0T VM Motori in the Jeep GC and my personal daily driver RAM 1500 EcoDiesel…I’d really be surprised based on some of the real world testing that defeat device or not, these non-VW diesels are putting out more NOX than specified.

    Nothing official to base that on (and personally the RAM EcoDiesel seems to run really clean) but I imagine that eventually, diesels in North America for ‘non-commercial’ use will get phased out…Just looks like the direction we are heading.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @klossfam
      But EPA will be looking the other way when particulates and other pollutants are produced by gas engines
      I would say they are putting out more NOx than specified, but if the EPA is ignoring the particulates from DI engines, then it balances itself out

      • 0 avatar
        klossfam

        I agree. Gas DI engines are another issue but diesel is a proven ‘whipping boy’ at the current time. Obviously hybrids solve part of the issue in that the gas engine is running less and the technology is already proven and reliable. Full EVs still have a long way to go but getting closer. Tesla helps and hurts…Performance is good to great but real world reliability is poor (when more main stream mfrs have full EVs, that’ll make a difference).

        My personal favorite solution is the Volt. Full electric around town and a hybrid for road trips. It’s an underrated vehicle IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        sarcheer

        EPA isn’t ignoring the particulates from DI engines at all. They actually addressed the problem in 2013/14 with the standards currently going into effect.

        “http://www.theicct.org/controlling-gdi-particulate-emissions”
        “http://www.theicct.org/tier-3-nprm”

    • 0 avatar
      Chetter

      Those vehicles have an 8 gallon DEF tank, no? VW’s cheating rigs had undersized 4 gallon DEF tanks which is why they cheated.

  • avatar
    Chetter

    Diesel is a great equalizer when your typical German gasser equivalent requires over priced (at least here in NY) Premium fuel. A shame.


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