By on August 26, 2019

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Image: Volkswagen of America

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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23 Comments on “No Shortage of Diesel Volkswagens Left for the Taking...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    41 MPG on a diesel isn’t that impressive compared to modern gas engines, it gets worse when you start adding diesel fuel costs, DEF fluid, traditional VW tax (repairs), and whatever changes had to be made to these cars to make them compliant. Reduced reliability(scary thought on a VW), reduces fuel economy for sure it seems, reduced power?

    A diesel at 41MPG in today’s world is best compared to a V6 engine for costs, not a 4 cylinder gas peer.

    • 0 avatar
      Carrera

      Yeah, I am with Hummer on that one. 41 mpg isn’t impressive at all. My Corolla with a 6 speed manual that has a regular port injection engine gets 39 mpg. What was impressive was the VW Golf Tdi before the fix. 50 mpg was a common occurrence.

      • 0 avatar
        Geef

        Exactly. This is why VW did this in the first place! The management bet the farm on it. After they discovered they couldn’t meet the current laws, they did it any way they could. When they operate “legally”, they get 40 MPG, eat DEF like crazy and go through Particulate Filters. Yeah, the earlier common rail diesels got 50-60 MPG and gave them the reputation and they could not live up to it.

    • 0 avatar
      65corvair

      My ’14 Accord with the manual gets 37 to 41 highway and is no doubt quicker. If it was the automatic my numbers would go up. In winter diesel where I live costs 20% or more than gas. Diesels just don’t make sense for cars.

      • 0 avatar
        ABC-2000

        Last September, 2016 Accord EX CVT, on my way to Maine from NYC, I got 40.7 MPG after 364 mile drive, cruise on 70MPH.
        My 2018 Accord 2.0T can only dream matching that MPG, you pay for that extra HP.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I’m not here to defend passcar diesel, but it’s tiresome and dishonest to compare your gas engine’s PEAK mileage achieved ONLY on the highway with a diesel’s NORMAL mileage achieved under ALL conditions.

      Gasoline engines can make fine MPG on the highway. They make terrible MPG in the city, where their drivability doesn’t hold a candle to a torquey diesel either. If you’re a highway commuter, a gas engine is great. If you’re driving a cab, you either need a hybrid or a diesel.

  • avatar
    TheDumbGuy

    “One owner, a Mr. Heilbraun, waxed poetic to the NYT about the killer deal he landed on a 2015 Golf TDI”- did Herr Heilbraun shorten his name ? Say, from Heilhitlerandevabraun ? Sounds suspicious to me…

  • avatar
    threeer

    Just recently purchased a 2014 VW Jetta Sportwagen diesel (and manual!) from the local dealership here in Huntsville. The deal was pretty good and the vehicle has been top-notch. Add to that the very impressive dealership experience, and I’m happy with it so far. I don’t know how much different the vehicle drove before the emissions fix, but I’m not complaining at how it drives currently. I’m not delusional into thinking there won’t be higher operating costs, but I love the slight rumble of the diesel, the low-end grunt and the fact that it is an honest-to-goodness manual transmission. In talking to the manager at the local VW dealer here, he relayed that there is still a fairly strong demand signal for them. Some might say the styling is too conservative, but I rather like the fact that my five-year old Jetta doesn’t look the part of a dated vehicle already, and likely won’t look too out of place five years from now, either.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Hmm..I didn’t think the 2014 Sportwagens can be brought into compliance since they don’t have urea tank.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      There is an approved fix for those cars, so they are eligible. It seems VW is crushing the older and higher mileage cars and dealers are buying up/fixing the newer/lower mileage cars, which is not surprising.

      My 2012 wagon appears to probably still be sitting in a lot somewhere based on a check through vehiclehistory.com. It doesn’t show as having any entries for being sold to a scrap yard at least.

      Mine had about 75000 miles on it at turn-in and did have a new battery but that was 3 years ago. If it ever gets re-sold it’ll need brakes at a minimum. It’ll also need some alloy rims since I turned it in with winter tires on steel rims and sold the alloys.

      Apparently VW is offering a 4 year/48000 mile warranty on them, so that’s not too bad on a used car.

      I wouldn’t personally want one due to the required maintenance on them and the 30+ cent price difference on Diesel fuel. There are so many gas cars available now that get similar fuel economy on cheaper fuel.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Am I being cheap if I think that these cheatdiesels are expensive? At Lindsay Volkswagen near DC, a 2015 Passat cheatdiesel with 44K miles sets you back at least $15,115.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    How long until we discover the “fix” is also fraudulent, like (it appears) every other passenger car diesel that has been sold under current emissions standards?

    Diesel is, and should be, done as a passenger car fuel. Restrict it to heavy vehicles (Class 3 and up) where it actually makes enough of an efficiency difference to put up with its considerable disadvantages.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “How long until we discover the “fix” is also fraudulent, like (it appears) every other passenger car diesel that has been sold under current emissions standards?”

      it only “appears” that way because of the claims of one particular firm of snakes who make big business out of class action suits.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        How about regulators?

        Regulators in various countries have levied fines against BMW, Daimler-Benz, FCA, Renault, and Nissan for fraudulent diesels, in addition to the well-known findings against all the VW Group brands that sold diesels.

        There are suits against other manufacturers that haven’t (yet) been backed up by regulators, but just the ones already sanctioned by regulators make up most of the diesel passenger car sales in the world over the last couple of decades. And you can see the results of this mass fraud in the air of plenty of European cities.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    These cars are radioactive. The only people buying them are the True Believers, and the diesel fleet is aging.

    Sure, they offer torque, range, and fuel economy, but many other vehicles offer at least 2 of those 3 without the downsides of a diesel.

    As for the 41 mpg, in my area diesel is currently a 30% premium over 87 octane, so that 41 mpg costs the same as a 30 mpg gasoline car. Not to mention DEF, and the attendant diesel stink. No thanks.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    As a diesel believer I would not touch these cars. First of all the “fix” has generally speaking ruined them. Second of all, some of them need some heavy duty reconditioning since they’ve been wasting away for 1,5-2 years outdoors in the sun and snow in Michigan. New tires, new brakes, calipers, rotors, possibly all rubber hoses, belts, fluids. Have they been reconditioned? Not to the extent necessary I bet.
    In the begining when the buyout started, there were some cream puffs. Those were the brand new 2015 that were part of the stop sale on dealer lots. They were done first on a quick turnaround. Those are long gone.

    • 0 avatar
      sokwdc

      Agree with Carrera. In 2017, I found a 2015 Golf Diesel – a top-of-the-line SEL manual — at a dealer when the stop sale was released. I was pleased with my sleuthing skills in locating it as it was one of the very few manual diesels remaining that were being held at dealers when the hold was issued. It was reconditioned, but I learned fairly quickly that the A-pillar fabric ruffle was indeed an indication of the dreaded Golf sunroof leak that had gone unfixed while it sat for 1.5 years or so. VW could never fix it and they offered to exchange it for an equivalent 2017 — the only equivalent being a 2017 GTI Autobahn. So it worked out very nicely in the end after a lot of hassle and paperwork. VW made it right. But honestly, cars sitting outside unattended, and then “attended” by VW dealers that are less than trustworthy in my experience, are a rolling liability in my estimation.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    All of the VW’s that were parked next to Pikes Peak Raceway in Colorado Springs are now gone as well. I can only imagine what 2 year or more of Colorado sun did. The crew did a good job of rotating the cars regularly but that is a lot of sun bake.

    I owned a 98′ TDI Jetta 5 MT, great car, that did 50 MPG highway and 46 city and concur with the other posts that 41 MPG is nothing to get excited about. Too much hassle to own one of these cars long term, especially for 41 mpg. A lot of cars can be bought that get that economy that come with zero of the headaches.

    • 0 avatar

      Your 98 didn’t have a diesel particulate filter. The fiilter is a $3600 replacement-the no DEF cars ran them very hot and they cracked…there was a TSB about it. The newer ones with DPF appear more reliable, as per my one data point, a friend with a Jetta and 160k, so far…my DPF cracked at 72k miles. OTR trucks have this as a wear and replacement item, but to do so in a Golf requires major surgery, and your local mechanic will pass….dealer only. I loved my TDI, loved driving it, until the hack engineering behind the turbo began to go. The older Diesels ran forever….but didn’t have to deal with the fact everything south of the turbo was a joke.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    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.

  • avatar
    TCragg

    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.

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