Elvis checks out the Q7 TDI in Memphis

As we roll into Dallas to conclude day 5 of the "Great American Road Trip," it is clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that modern diesel engines are very efficient while still providing excellent performance. However, the dominant back drop hanging over the plates of ribs at BB King's Blues Club Thursday night was the continuing collapse of the financial markets. As those of us sitting around the table pondered the survival of the industry that we all write about, the cars and SUVs we were driving faded to the background. Unlike some of the more exotic alternatives out there, the TDI technology used by Audi is available now with more coming to the U.S. market in the coming months.

The question is will anyone be able to buy it or any of the future powertrains? Very few people buy new cars with cash. The industry relies on being able extend credit to drivers. The key element of what is happening this week is that financial institutions have become unwilling to loan money to anyone. After loaning way too much over the last decade to people who couldn't afford to pay it back, there is now nothing going out. That creates a great deal of uncertainty in product planning. Audi made the decision to launch their new diesels in the Q7 long before this ever started and it's unclear what their future path will be. The A4, Q5 and A3 have all been talked about as potential future U.S. diesel products, but without knowing where auto sales in general are going it's hard to choose a direction. With Toyota already having canceled its planned diesel for the Tundra and rumors of other product cancellations on the horizon, the only thing we know for sure is that we know nothing.

Our travel and lodging for this media event was provided by the manufacturer.

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