Volkswagen TDI Owners Share Thoughts on Emissions Scandal
Owners of Older and Newer TDIs Have Different Perspectives
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last two weeks, the big story in the automotive world has been the revelation that Volkswagen installed a “defeat” device on its 2009-2015 TDI models to detect the EPA’s test mode and activate emissions control features that were bypassed when the car was in a normal driving mode. Many stories have been written about the general public’s perception of Volkswagen -- and of diesel vehicles in general -- and what this scandal means to the future of Volkswagen as a company. However, we wanted to get a different perspective, that of current TDI owners. What we found was a significantly different perspective between the owner of a late-model TDI covered under the investigation and recall, and an owner of an older-model TDI, not one of the current models affected by the scandal.
David Hill, a technical editor in San Jose, California, owns a 2012 Golf TDI. Having previously owned both another TDI and before that a gas-powered VR6 model, Hill’s positive experiences with his previous Volkswagens prompted him to consider a newer TDI when it was time for a new car. At the time, he thought he was making an environmentally responsible choice while maintaining the fun-to-drive character the brand is known for. After hearing the news on the emissions cheating scandal, Hill feels he was deliberately deceived by VW: “It definitely has changed my feelings. I have been a vocal TDI advocate and even influenced others to purchase a TDI. Given that past, I cannot politely express how disappointed I am. It has been a disappointing decade for VW fanatics in the U.S. This just seals it. If VW ever wants to recover in this market, they’re going to have to rewin the base that loves the brand but cannot deal with this type of betrayal.”
Anthony Soos, a Truck Trend Network staff editor and owner of a 2003 Jetta TDI, says the current scandal doesn’t affect his opinion on his car, since it wasn’t purchased on the premise of emissions cleanliness or any sort of “green” image but primarily fuel economy. In fact, Soos believes the draconian government emissions regulations are somewhat to blame for VW’s actions and has consciously avoided the newer TDI models because of the restrictive emissions controls. “The news has not changed my opinion of my particular vehicle. However, the news has drastically changed my choice to buy a newer TDI. I will not sell my car, at least not right away. However, I will sell if I see the value rise in response to the backlash on the ’09-’15 models turning into ‘paperweights’ with the mandated software fix that’s sure to come.”
Both Hill and Soos agree that VW deserves the scorn it has received in the media. “They deserve what they’re about to get,” Hill said. However, he said he believes equal scrutiny should be given to the aftermarket companies that openly market and sell emissions defeat devices for fullsize diesel trucks. “These truck drivers ‘rolling coal’ are doing far more harm than our fraudulent TDIs.”
“VW cheated and got caught. The government has every right to come down on them as they did to Hyundai for inflating mpg figures and for any other manufacturer being dishonest or unsafe,” Soos said.
Despite the fact that the current scandal will only reinforce diesel’s traditionally “dirty” image in the U.S., Hill hopes that discerning consumers can look past this particular case and see the potential promise in clean diesel technology. “Diesel engines are wonderfully efficient and critical to our economy, and it seems at least some of the manufacturers are following the guidelines honestly,” said Hill. “However, I suspect that the American consumer will care more about buzz than geeky mechanical stuff. I fear I’m part of a weird consumer minority, which was what brought me to VW in the first place.”
Soos said he thought buyers need to educate themselves more thoroughly on the facts of diesel engines. “Diesel’s image of being dirtier than gas is not entirely true, but the American carbuying public has always thought that, and that hasn’t changed. The VW debacle has only added fuel to the fire and will drag down public perception even further.”