Dead Volkswagens Walking: US Casualties of the TDI Scandal
Dead Volkswagens Walking: US Casualties of the TDI scandalWe know that in the wake of Volkswagen's admission that they cheated on TDI emissions compliance, the company will have to drastically cut costs and cancel or delay projects to offset the millions it'll have to pay out in fines, lawsuits, and fixing over-polluting cars. VW's new boss has said as much. What we don't know is which cars in North America will die off, or never see the light of day. But we have some educated guesses. The cars in this slideshow are all outside of the company's core mass-market offerings. The ones currently in production have faced slow sales and unlikely future prospects; the ones being considered for sale in the United States might be sacrificed in the name of cost-cutting. In any event, we think they're unlikely to see American dealer lots in the wake of the scandal.
Volkswagen Golf R 400
Volkswagen’s likely retreat from a hotter version of their hottest hatch might seem like a punch in the gut for VW enthusiasts, but a quick check of the roster shows the GTI and Golf R still present and accounted for in America. In our opinion, the existence of two levels of sport-hatch greatness both take out the sting and makes the R 400 a probable “no” for production at all, and definitely a "no" for the US. Too bad, as a 395 horsepower Golf that can hit 62 miles per hour in a scant 3.9 seconds and manages to make room for the groceries seemed like a nice idea.
Volkswagen Bulli Microbus Concept
VW has said repeatedly that the niche is too small in the US to support the return of a Westfalia-style bus, but that hasn’t silenced a very outspoken sliver of would-be customers from dreaming. To add insult to injury, options are currently available in Europe, and it’s rumored that VW was going to show off an all-electric concept camper at CES. Already a speculative exercise, the diesel scandal and resulting purse-tightening should nip any nascent US-market minivans and campers in the bud for years to come.
Volkswagen hasn't said that it's considering the Amarok for the US, but chatter about the Chicken Tax's possible demise makes it worth our brief consideration. Still, there are several reasons why the truck will stay off our shores. For one, it utilizes an all-TDI powertrain lineup, a nonstarter in post-scandal America. The second is the Chicken Tax, which like it or lump it, is still on the books. And lastly, it would take a huge investment to build an Amorak marketable in the US and the rest of the world. The Amarok could hope for only a mere fraction of midsize truck sales. The numbers just don’t make sense, making a US version unthinkable even if the Chicken Tax is repealed. It may not even get a second generation abroad, depending on how deep VW's cost-cutting measures go.
Update: An earlier version of this slide did not reflect that the Amarok is body-on-frame. It has been updated.
Bentley’s new Bentayga is much more likely to fill the company's coffers than the lovely EXP-10 ever would, and sadly that might doom the sports coupe concept. SUVs are profitable, and halo cars are a luxury that an organization facing fines, lawsuits, and a profit hit due to falling sales can ill afford. The EXP-10 is probably the most interesting car Bentley has considered producing since the Turbo R ruffled purist feathers in 1985, and it’s not likely to ever see the light of day. If Bentley's parent company Volkswagen Audi Group surprises us and green-lights the project, we won't complain.
The CC is a nice sedan, a sleeker Passat with entry-level luxury trappings. Too bad it sells about a tenth as well as the Passat in the US, piddling numbers in even the niche sedan universe. Last year we heard rumblings about the next CC becoming a fastback, a la the Audi A7. To be clear, the CC will probably get a next-generation model, as we heard back in April. But don’t be surprised if VW execs compare the cost of US federalization with projected North American sales figures, and decide to leave the CC's charms in Europe.
Earlier this year, well before anyone stuck a probe up a TDI’s tailpipe, the Beetle was in trouble. Sales have been flagging as consumers flock to SUVs in direct proportion to the falling price of gas. There were rumors that VW would save a buck by moving it to the modular MQB platform, shaving some cost and gaining some economy of scale, but consumers aren’t going to buy more Beetles because simply they’re cheaper for VW to make. As the company desperately tries to offset diesel scandal costs, Volkswagen’s deck is stacked against the Beetle. It may only be sold abroad, or it may fade away entirely. In the meantime, expect the upcoming Beetle Dune to create a brief resurgence of interest in the model, but not move the sales needle any.