The 65.2 MPG VW [Updated]


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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43 Responses

  1. Avatar ethan says:

    So 1. Its prohibitively expensive, 2. its production may be emissions intensive, 3. the first fleet is 250 vehicles…so of course its not going to debut in the usa,Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Well, I suppose one question is why they’re not available here. If it’s just because there’s not a market in the US for them, or there aren’t enough of them, well that’s one thing. The claim, though, is that they are banned, which is different.

      I’d be interested to know whether they are banned or simply not available.

      I’m not sure I buy #2 as a reason. That would be a reason not to make them here, but not a reason not to sell them here. (Allegedly, of course, they are made here. I can’t verify that, though.)Report

      • Avatar Ethan says:

        I honestly can’t find anywhere so far a reason why it’s not sold here, other than the tangential fact that it’s only available in Germany and one other country starting out.Report

  2. Avatar Fnord says:

    Money quote:

    VW doesn’t think American consumers will want to pay extra for things like unique transmission gearing, aerodynamic add-ons, and weight savings for specific trim levels.


    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Thanks, Fnord. No mention of any sort of import ban. If there was one, I suspect that (a) C&D would know about it and (b) it would have been mentioned in the article. So at this point I’m inclined to agree with Ethan that it’s an economics thing and not a legal thing.

      Can anyone point out something suggesting otherwise?Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I have a question regarding electric and other “plug in” cars… what are the fuel costs? I’ve heard a lot about how they cut down on gasoline consumption, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the fuel costs are lower. I’ve haven’t done much research into the topic, but what would plugging my car into a wall outlet do to my electricity bill?Report

  4. Avatar zic says:

    Do you know about the GM electric car?

    And they’re producing (going to produce?) a next generation vehicle in South Korea.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Zic, I’m a bit skeptical of the Volt, though I’d like to be proven wrong. I suspect that for the foreseeable future the success will be in the hybrids and other high-mileage gas-using cars.

      This methane hydrate thing looks interesting.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        My younger sprout wants to put a small jet engine (hobbyist sized, as would be used in RC jets) into a VW Rabbit body; have it turn a brushless motor.

        But the early GM car wasn’t a Volt; and there’s a lot of questionable stuff behind the story; basically, they never sold them, they only leased them, and the recalled all the leases, crushed most of the cars made. GM said it was because of supply lines for parts; but people who leased the cars said they didn’t break down.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Will, I spent a fair bit of time researching VW’s non-US small diesel engine cars once upon a time. I recall that had a subcompact that they advertised as getting over 90 miles to the gallon (diesel!) and wondered why those cars aren’t permitted here in the US given the very same point you just made: even if emissions are higher per gallon, they’re lower per mile than a standard high-mileage gasoline engines. I never could figure out a good reason. Even a bad good reason.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      Still, so it is something regulatory? That’s what the guy in the video (and others) are saying. I just can’t find any confirmation everywhere. Considering the interest in high mileage cars, I’m surprised at my inability to pin that down.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        My best guess – which isn’t a very good one – is that it’s regulatory since US car companies make small diesel engines which they manufacture for overseas car sales. Not necessarily for subcompacts, but pickups and SUVs. So it seems to me the answer can’t be home field advantage or protectionism or anything like that.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        As far as I know, it doesn’t matter how efficient the car is, if it doesn’t pass emissions, it won’t be sold here. Also, the problem with a lot of the smaller (Kei class) Japanese cars, they won’t pass us safety regulations, so they also cannot be sold here.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Part of it is that there’s very little consumer appetite for diesel cars in the US market. They simply don’t sell well for whatever reason, because there’s a stigma attached to diesels in the US and they’re not regarded as a powerplant for anything outside of trucking use. Also the quality of American diesel offered at the pump makes certain problems. Simply put it’s not really a regulatory issue as it is a consumer one. There’s no demand for diesel offerings so they don’t sell them.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        To me, there either is a regulatory issue or there isn’t. If they can’t sell them over here due to emissions, then we really don’t know what the demand is. Diesel’s aren’t remarkably popular here, but it’s present enough that I would think that there’d be a market for vehicles getting that kind of outstanding mileage.

        If there is not a regulatory barrier, then that’s that.

        I wish I could get an idea of whether there is or not, regardless of whether or not we think there would be a market for it or not.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          The issue is essentially two fold, yes?

          One is a taxation issue. Diesel taxes are higher than gasoline taxes in the US, I think partly because of the fact that diesel is primarily used by freight lines, and thus the attempt there is to make freight users shoulder a “fair” burden of road costs by taxing their consumption of diesel at a higher rate than gasoline.

          Second WAS a regulatory issue, in that until around 6-7 years ago the US used the Low Sulfur Diesel standard which allowed substantially higher sulfur content than was allowed in diesel sold in Europe, meaning that diesel passenger cars required changes in order for them to run in the US. Once the US switched to ULSD in 2006-2010 timeframe, it helped offset the development costs of bringing diesel cars over.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Awesome, Nob! Thanks for the info!

            So sounds like taxes are an issue. The differing sulfer standards also makes sense.

            That does still bring us back to the question of whether or not VW could sell that particular model here if they were so inclined (ie whether its emissions would violate emission controls that don’t take into account mileage), but since the SA article doesn’t mention it that might be telling? But the links do give me a better idea of what issues are at play. So, thanks!Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Diesel taxes are higher than gasoline taxes in the US, I think partly because of the fact that diesel is primarily used by freight lines, and thus the attempt there is to make freight users shoulder a “fair” burden of road costs by taxing their consumption of diesel at a higher rate than gasoline.

            I had to stop and think about that for a minute. They use more gas per mile, so I figured that should cover the extra damage. For anyone similarly confused, the explanation is that road damage increases exponentially with the weight of the vehicle.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            Although diesel cars obtain 25 to 35 percent better mileage and emit less carbon dioxide than similar gasoline cars, they can emit 25 to 400 times more mass of particulate black carbon and associated organic matter (“soot”) per kilometer [mile]. The warming due to soot may more than offset the cooling due to reduced carbon dioxide emissions over several decades, according to Mark Z. Jacobson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.


            That could be the issue, if emissions standards for car as much tighter than for things like large pickup trucks.

            Perhaps the ideal solution is to introduce dimethyl ether (DME) into the fuel stream, synthesizing it from coal and using it in existing diesel engines (which requires a slight modification to lubricate the valves, since DME is not a lubricant like diesel fuel). The major change would be the fuel tanks, which would have to be built like propane tanks. China is already running buses on it.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              Until recently a large problem was particulate matter (PM) emissions, which are rather unique to diesel engines when we’re talking ICEs. ULSD has helped relieve many of those problems in terms of US emissions standards and the rest come from PM filters made of things like ceramics which have been making strides ever since Europe started tightening their standards.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        IIRC, there’s a historical…dislike..for diesel powered cars, that persists in the American market.

        I’m a little fuzzy on details — I’m going by some half-remembered bits of history, but I believe during the 70s there was a spate of quick-and-dirty diesel conversions by American manufacturers.

        It didn’t go well — diesels run at higher temperatures than gasoline engines (at least this was the case back then) and what came out the pipe was a generation of American diesels sold as fuel-efficient (and they were) during the oil-shock, but whose mechanical reliability was…poor.

        Which cemented, in the minds of the boomers, a relationship between American diesels and poor quality. My dad actually drove a Nissan Sentra that was a diesel (and worked quite well, but it was an import and from like 1981), but it was quite difficult to find diesel gas outside of truck stops.

        Which made travelling a bit of a pain. Add in the fact that diesals in the 70s and 80s were loud, obviously polluting (smoke, smells), considered unreliable and prone to problems, and a PITA to find fuel for — the American diesel market just never took off.

        It still really hasn’t, although I’ve noted diesel fuel is in much higher availability. It’s not regulation or taxes or government so much as it is just…societal inertia. The boomers shaped the car market in many, many ways.

        And then oil prices collapsed and Americans weren’t gonna may more for mileage and associated diesels poorly, and it wasn’t worth it for car manufacturers to push change until the last decade or so.

        And frankly Toyota won that particular resurgence of mileage awareness on the backs of hybrids, not diesels.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          I just wish I could get some confirmation that there aren’t, in fact, issues with emissions on the Passat, Polo, and others that would cause problems with emissions tests, as some are claiming. (I’m leaning towards thinking that they are, in fact, wrong, though I should add “even if there weren’t regulations…” would be an unsatisfactory answer to me if, in fact, they aren’t wrong.)Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              In case people can’t hit the link the explanation is two fold:
              1. The North American Passat rides on a different platform and is a larger car than the Euro Passat. Quick googling says the NA Passat has a longer wheel base and more overall volume (and is about 5-10% heavier?).

              2. MPG gauges in the UK use imperial gallons, American ones use NA gallons. This gives you an extra litre from which you can get a substantial discrepency.

              3. BlueMotion products aren’t available partly due to price point. The low end 1.6L TDI BlueMotion Passat in the UK costs 22,585 pounds, which with today’s exchange rate is $35,000. That puts it in the same price range as VW’s larger (and better appointed) CC. That’s not even getting into the competition.

              I think if pressed most Americans would rather spend $30,000 on a fully loaded Accord that gets 23-24mpg vs going for another $5,000 on a smaller Passat with fewer features that does get 60ish mpg with a manual.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Thanks, Nob. That is exactly what I was looking for.Report

      • Avatar Fnord says:

        All this appears to be ignoring the fact that Volkswagen IS selling diesels in the US. The TDI SE and TDI SEL models are diesels.Report

  6. Avatar lincoln's beard says:

    I own and drive a mid-00s diesel VW Golf. We used to fill it up with bio-diesel when we lived closer to hippies and farms. Now that we live among hipsters and public transit, only the city buses can get biodiesel.

    I seem to remember that it’s nigh-impossible for passenger diesels of any sort to meet California emission standards, and a big percentage of the people who might be interested in high-mpg cars live out there.

    You might peruse the TDI FAQ ( and the related forums ( for the sort of information that only real internet enthusiasts can provide.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      California’s standards were driven, IIRC, by California’s incredibly bad smog problems.

      Not many people remember how truly awful LA was before California cracked down. Sure it’s all granola hippy jokes and such these days, but those strict standards were in response to a truly awful problem.Report

    • Avatar Patrick says:

      California had effectively a sales ban on diesel passenger cars. You could buy them out of state and register them here (and pay the sales tax on them to boot), but you couldn’t buy them here, effectively. Newer diesel cars meet emission standards due to the fuel change somebody mentioned upthread. (

      I like diesel pickups, for the torque bonus.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    Off topic, but semi relevant. I recently had my manual transmission car in the shop for some clutch work. The Service Tech said that there are a lot of current techs aren’t just familiar with manuals anymore–much less demand I guess. I guess one day, no one will know how to service those cars..Report

  8. Avatar Kimmi says:

    My bet: it’s not emissions at all. It’s safety. They won’t pass American crash tests.Report

    • This is my inclination as well.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      In a country with motorcycles, crash test standards are something I do not fully understand.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        They are a part and parcel with Americans’ idea that no loss of life is ever acceptable, if it be preventable. (person drops their baby into puppy pit. puppies eat baby. zoo says: get rid of puppies).

        I think we ought to distinguish between “probably survivable” crashes (low speed) and ones that we really ought to say “drive around it, sucker”Report

    • Avatar Fnord says:

      Conditioned on there actually being a regulatory barrier, I think this is the most likely culprit. I’m not convinced there actually is a regulatory barrier, though.Report