Volkswagen will gradually step away from diesels as part of its core identity in the U.S., Automotive News reports. Volkswagen’s U.S. chief Hinrich J. Woebcken, who replaced Michael Horn in March of this year after the latter’s sudden departure, indicated that the automaker plans to offer diesel models for 2017 through 2019, at the very least, but that they will not play a major role in how the automaker positions itself in the marketplace. The decision comes in the wake of the diesel scandal that has inflicted damage to the brand over the past 10 months.
“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.”
In the wake of the diesel scandal, Volkswagen has not applied for EPA certification for its 2.0-liter diesel models for the 2016 model year, effectively making 2015 model year cars the last new diesels sold stateside. Dealers are estimated to have some 12,000 unsold vehicles in their inventories from the previous model year, all cars that were placed under a stop-sale order last fall.
Until late last year, diesel models accounted for more than 20 percent of VW sales in the U.S., in addition to representing a large chunk of all diesel car sales in the country. The diesel scandal inflicted a substantial blow to VW sales in the short term, though generous incentives approved shortly after the outbreak of the scandal have kept inventories moving. Regardless, no amount of incentive spending can cover the disappearance of one-fifth of the automaker’s offerings.
While Woebcken stated diesels will return for the 2017 through 2019 model years, he did not detail the changes to the fuel consumption and emissions levels that the 2.0-liter models will advertise — the commercial launch of the 2017 TDI models is still a long time away — and EPA window sticker figures are usually finalized and printed just a few weeks prior to the start of sales.
Beyond 2019, the U.S. chief offered a careful prognosis for diesel models.
“The regulations from 2019-2020 are going to be so hard that we would have had to find an alternative to a certain extent anyhow,” Woebcken said. “The diesel crisis is forcing us simply to think about this earlier.”
VW has yet to receive approval from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board for repairing new and used diesels, ones that will be part of a recall and ones sitting in dealer lots. The automaker suffered a setback just in the last few days as CARB officials rejected its proposed recall plans for 85,000 Audi, Porsche and VW vehicles equipped with the larger 3.0-liter TDI engine.