No Shortage of Diesel Volkswagens Left for the Taking

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
no shortage of diesel volkswagens left for the taking

The Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal may be receding into the past, but many of the cars at the center of the controversy remain — and not just the ones that owners wouldn’t let go of.

According to a report in the New York Times, some 100,000 of the roughly 380,000 diesel-powered vehicles VW bought back as part of its environmental penance remain in America — unsold, but still in high demand. And thanks to an two-part emissions fix rolled out in 2017, these remaining vehicles could be yours.

While the post-buyback software and hardware switcheroo resulted in a mild decrease in power and economy, many buyers of these sidelined vehicles aren’t complaining. One owner, a Mr. Heilbraun, waxed poetic to the NYT about the killer deal he landed on a 2015 Golf TDI ($11,500, with 38k on the odometer), claiming he regularly nets 41 mpg on his daily 30-mile commute.

The same attributes that originally attracted buyers to VW’s not-so-clean diesels remain, and it’s not like there’s a bevy of other high-MPG diesel small cars to get your hands on these days. Chevrolet’s Cruze, briefly offered with a 1.6-liter diesel, kicked the bucket earlier this year. Meanwhile, Mazda’s long-delayed diesel CX-5 comes up short in the efficiency department, and forget about landing a smoking deal.

The remaining crop of fixed VW oil burners languish in a couple of dozen lots around the U.S., with dealers slowly whittling down the inventory through auction buys. Reportedly, most of the remaining cars are Passats. After so much time spent outside, additional work must be done to get them in good enough condition for the CPO lot. Besides the approved emissions fix, the now aging cars require replacement of parts spoiled by excessive time spent in the sun, snow, and rain.

“Every vehicle we see needs brakes and tires,” said Rob Barcellona, a pre-owned sales manager at a VW Group dealer in Flemington, New Jersey. “The brakes are rusted, the tires are dry-rotted.”

In some cases, the wipers see a pre-sale swap. Sometimes shift cables undergo replacement. Fluids and filters also see a swap, but the resulting product remains in demand, with some dealers saying customers come in from out of state to pick up a “new” TDI. Besides the low buy-in and great fuel economy, VW’s 4-year/48,000 mile (from the point of repair) warranty offers excessive peace of mind.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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  • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Aug 27, 2019

    A local consignment Auction House has a couple of apparently recently repaired VW's in this month's auction. A 2012 Jetta wagon with a manual trans. It does show signs of being stored outside in our wet northwest climate. They have a shot of the spare tire and well and there is rust on the wheel, jack and in body seams. There is also a 2012 automatic Passat that appears to have new tires on it. Starting bid is $5k each.

  • TCragg TCragg on Aug 27, 2019

    The automotive landscape has changed from an efficiency standpoint in recent years, given that gasoline-powered small cars are not far off from diesels in that regard. If you live in the USA, I agree that diesel doesn't make a lot of sense if your goal is to save money. In Canada, by comparison the value proposition is better since diesel averages 10-15% less per litre than regular gasoline. I owned numerous VW diesels and always enjoyed the torque and economy back when those virtues were almost exclusively diesel's domain. I currently drive a Chev Colorado diesel. There was a about a 10% premium for the diesel at the time of purchase, but I do a lot of towing, and it beats the pants of any other gas-powered truck with 5,000 lbs behind it. As someone mentioned above, it may not make sense for everyone, but I appreciate that diesel power is still an option in some non-traditional segments.

  • Bobbysirhan Engines are important.
  • Hunter Ah California. They've been praying for water for years, and now that it's here they don't know what to do with it.
  • FreedMike I think this illustrates a bit of Truth About PHEVs: it's hard to see where they "fit." On paper, they make sense because they're the "best of both worlds." Yes, if you commute 20-30 miles a day, you can generally make it on electric power only, and yes, if you're on a 500-mile road trip, you don't have to worry about range. But what percentage of buyers has a 20-mile commute, or takes 500-mile road trips? Meanwhile, PHEVs are more expensive than hybrids, and generally don't offer the performance of a BEV (though the RAV4 PHEV is a first class sleeper). Seems this propulsion type "works" for a fairly narrow slice of buyers, which explains why PHEV sales haven't been all that great. Speaking for my own situation only, assuming I had a place to plug in every night, and wanted something that ran on as little gas as possible, I'd just "go electric" - I'm a speed nut, and when it comes to going fast, EVs are awfully hard to beat. If I was into hypermiling, I'd just go with a hybrid. Of course, your situation might vary, and if a PHEV fits it, then by all means, buy one. But the market failure of PHEVs tells me they don't really fit a lot of buyers' situations. Perhaps that will change as charging infrastructure gets built out, but I just don't see a lot of growth in PHEVs.
  • Kwik_Shift Thank you for this. I always wanted get involved with racing, but nothing happening locally.
  • Arthur Dailey Love the Abe Rothstein tribute suits. Too bad about the car. Seems to have been well loved for most of its life.