Why The VW Diesel Emissions Scandal Means More Scrutiny For All Diesels
EPA, CARB Already Planning on Large-Scale Testing of Other Diesel Models
Other automotive manufacturers are probably muttering, “Thanks a lot, Volkswagen,” right about now. Notice there’s not a lot of public schadenfreude over VW’s scandal by other automakers. That’s because they probably knew that this would inevitably increase scrutiny of their diesel models. There’s an old saying in NASCAR that there are two types of drivers: cheaters and losers. In VW’s case, the company’s cheating could make them a big loser, potentially as much as $18 billion. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have already vowed to step up testing on other diesel vehicles on sale from other companies, according to Reuters.
Daimler and BMW executives have said their vehicles are fully compliant with EPA standards, not just under strict lab conditions. Indeed, a BMW X5 diesel was found to be fully compliant with federal NOx emissions standards during the testing originally conducted by researchers that uncovered VW’s malfeasance, who, ironically enough, started out with the premise of demonstrating how clean modern diesels were.
Other than the German brands, there are precious few other light-duty diesels on the market. There’s the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, and in a few months, there will be diesel versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. For the 2017 model year, there will be a diesel version of the new Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, with a downsized 1.6L diesel. Beyond that, very few diesel models are forecast, and after this scandal, you can expect probably fewer. Even Mazda, which at one time was quite bullish on the prospects of bringing over its Skyactiv-D diesel models in the U.S., has pushed off the introduction of the powertrain indefinitely in the U.S., on its inability to deliver its characteristic “zoom-zoom” driving experience while meeting diesel emissions. At this point, taking into consideration Mazda’s recent strategic partnership with Toyota, expect fewer diesels and more hybrids coming from Hiroshima.
While this debacle certainly gives a black eye to diesels in the eyes of the general public, it should reflect more on the internal ethics of VW than the promise of the technology in general. Those manufacturers that struggled to honestly meet EPA standards and successfully brought their products to market should be justifiably proud of their efforts. However, the future of fuel economy moving more toward electrification for light-duty vehicles seems even more certain following this development. Buying a new diesel in the U.S. going forward is more likely to remain what it has been for most of the last two decades: a fullsize truck or SUV.