Volkswagen is selling diesel cars — but not for long – USA TODAY

DETROIT — Two years after cheating on emissions tests catapulted Volkswagen into a global crisis, the automaker is again selling cars with diesel engines in the U.S., but the German brand’s signature offerings won’t be around too much longer.

Customers lined up to buy two-year-old Volkswagen diesel cars when the automaker unexpectedly resumed sales in April, but don’t expect the sales boom to last.

Many VW customers may still want its fuel efficient diesels — also called TDIs — but the few thousand cars left at dealerships after the automaker resolved its emission-fraud crisis are the last diesels the automaker plans to sell in the U.S.

One dealership, Suburban Volkswagen in Troy, Mich.,  got five offers for every car it had, sales manager John Beauchamp said.

“We had phones ringing off the hook. People love their diesels. I did the only fair thing and sold them on a first-come, first-served basis,” Beauchamp said.

VW dealers had about 11,000 unsold 2015 model year diesels in stock when the U.S. government told them to halt sales in September 2015 because the company cheated on emissions tests. Volkswagen has paid billions of dollars in fines to date and faces further investigations in the U.S. and around the world.

The “new” 2015s now on sale include Beetle coupes and convertibles, Jetta and Passat sedans and Golf hatchbacks and wagons. It’s unclear how many are left after VW reprogrammed them to reduce their emissions to legal levels. And with incentives of $8,500 cash or $5,000 with interest-free six-year loans, they’re selling fast.

“There’s going to be a land rush of diesel fans to get those cars,” said Joe Phillippi, principal of analyst  AutoTrends. “Plenty of people are going to be hunting for them.”

That’s despite the fact that fixing the emissions reduced their performance. VW won’t say how much slower the cars are, but the TDI’s fuel economy remains high.

VW says the EPA rates the now-legal diesels’ fuel economy at 30 miles per gallon in the city, 42 mpg on the highway and 34 mpg combined with a manual transmission and 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway annd 33 mpg combined with a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Those figures are slightly lower than the original window stickers, but that’s because the EPA tweaked its test procedure rather than lower efficiency, according to VW.  VW brought the engines into compliance with U.S .law by adjusting how frequently an additive that reduces NOx emissions is added to their exhaust.

“Volkswagen owners were happy with the way the diesels performed,” IHS Markit senior analyst Stephanie Brinley said. “Some owners didn’t want to give them up. Now, the cars are in incredibly short supply and incentives are high.”

Audi dealers also have a few newly street-legal 2015 TDI diesels. They’re offering 1.9% interest on 66-month loans, according to Green Car Reports.

With demand strong, many Audi and VW dealers are likely to snap up used TDIs they bought back from owners and fixed.

While Volkswagen says it will not offer any new diesels in the U.S., a couple of other automakers hope to cash in on interest in the powerful and efficient engines.

Volkswagen’s executives said they will stop selling vehicles with diesel engines in the U.S. so the company can focus on becoming a leader in electric cars.

While that strategy is laudable, the damage to the company’s brand image from the emissions scandal and the diminishing returns automakers are getting from diesel engines as they hit the ceiling of their technical capabilities also surely played a role.

Chevrolet offers a diesel version of its Cruze compact sedan and hatchback that boasts an EPA rating of 31 m.p.g. in the city, 47 highway and 37 combined. Mazda will sell its first diesel in the U.S. later this year in the popular CX-5 compact SUV.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler automobiles offers diesel engines as an option on its Ram pickups and on its Jeep Grand Cherokee. However, Fiat Chrysler has been unable to sell 2017 model year versions of those vehicles since January and is still wrestling with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice over a proposed software fix to overcome what the EPA says are Clean Air Act violations for those vehicles.

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