What happens if VW can't fix its TDI diesel engines in America?

Historical precedent gives us the answer, and it may not be pretty.

One of the biggest questions lingering over the Volkswagen diesel scandal is whether the company will be able to fix the offending cars. So far, VW hasn't had much luck, which may make you wonder what will happen if the cars can never actually be fixed. Interestingly enough, history tells us that these cars could have a bleak future if they can't be fixed.

Back in 1994, the LA Times reported on a similar situation. Nissan had been struggling to find a fix to correct a fire hazard on its 1987-1990 vans. After recalling the cars a total of four times with no success, the company decided to buy back as many of the 33,000 vans as it could and destroy them. Although Nissan didn't get every single van, it still managed to effectively wipe out the model in the US.

We're not ready to suggest that VW will buy back and crush all of the nonconforming TDI-equipped vehicles it sold over the years in the United States. But the odds of finding an adequate resolution keep looking worse and worse. So far, fixes have been approved in Europe, but here in the States, regulators have rejected VW's suggested remedies for both the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the 3.0-liter V6. Not only that, but back in March, an official for the California Air Resources Board said he didn't think the cars could be fixed.

VW is still attempting to find a fix for the time being, and the company has a strong incentive to come up with a repair. Volkswagen will still likely buy back many of the diesels as part of its recent settlement, but an adequate fix would mean the company might not have to purchase back every single one of the 475,000 affected cars in America. Still, VW may reach a point at which it decides it can't afford to keep diverting money and time from future products to fix its older diesels. If that happens, the modern TDI Volkswagen could become an endangered species here in the States.

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