"We are not stopping diesel," Woebcken said. "Wherever diesel makes sense as a package to the car, we'll continue. But in reality, we have to accept that the high percentage of diesels that we had before will not come back again."
The change is a big deal for VW, which spent the better part of a decade championing its fuel-sipping diesel models – at one point, every VW but the CC sedan, Tiguan CUV and Eos convertible offered a diesel option. But is Volkswagen's purge shortsighted?
Automotive News' Larry Vellequette seems to think so. After running a loaded-down Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel from to Detroit to Chicago and back on a single tank and in less-than-ideal conditions – lots of stop-and-go traffic – Vellequette rightly argues that diesels "deserve a seat at the main table of automakers' fuel economy strategies."
See, unlike hybrids or turbos, diesels regularly hit or even exceed the EPA's fuel economy estimates. Vellequette loaded down the 5,400-pound, off-road-capable Grand Cherokee test car with four passengers and a weekend's worth of luggage, and still averaged 25 miles per gallon. Drop all the passenger/cargo weight and the extended time idling and reaching up and beyond the Jeep's 28-mpg highway rating should be easy.
That brings us back to Volkswagen. If diesel stays "wherever [it] makes sense as a package to the car," what does that mean for the lineup? The Touareg is a natural choice – as a bigger SUV, it's a road-trip machine that's just as at home towing, so diesel economy and torque are big pluses. Making predictions is harder away from the realm of crossovers and SUVs. We like a Passat TDI, because a 700-mile-per-tank family sedan seems like it'd still appeal to consumers even after VW sullied the TDI name. Add in a Golf TDI, and it'd give Volkswagen a three-pronged strategy to retain diesel power in the settings where it makes the most sense.