Oil (Won’t) Be Back: Audi Confirms Diesel Is Dead for the U.S.
Long-serving Volkswagen Group executives wince when they hear the word Dieselgate. As they should; the scandal has cost the company millions in buyback restitution and an as yet unquantified amount in damage to its reputation. But although the company remains committed to diesel technology in Europe, we now have confirmation from a senior source that there is seemingly no chance of Volkswagen, Audi, or Porsche diesels ever coming back to the United States, no matter how clean they are.
We spoke to Peter Mertens, Audi’s new development boss, at last weekend’s Formula E race in Berlin and asked him whether a relaunch in the U.S. market would be considered for the ultraclean next-generation diesel engines that the group is developing.
“Now you’re putting me in a corner,” he said. “I would say no, and why is that so? I do not believe that Americans in their true belief and heart, their cultural way of driving, are suited to diesel. They aren’t. Everybody tried—we Europeans tried to give an answer maybe to a question that wasn’t asked.”
We’ll leave aside the accuracy of some of the answers Volkswagen gave to the EPA’s questions. It’s worth noting that Mertens’s previous employment with Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz before joining Audi in May means he has no connection with any of the Dieselgate decisions.
The scandal is still raging in Europe, too. “Diesel can be clean with technology, but the problem is the image,” Mertens said. “People think that diesel is bad. It’s not helping us and it’s not helping the environment, speaking frankly. It would be great if we could come back to technical terms and realities instead of alternative facts when it comes to diesel, but it’s very difficult to fight them.”
With diesel struggling to justify its existence in Europe, there’s no appetite to try to relaunch it over here. So, beyond the cleaned-up 2015 TDI inventory that is now being sold off, it seems clear that no more VW Group diesels will be making the trip across the Atlantic.