For American motorists looking for sporty but environmentally friendly alternatives to sluggish hybrids, diesels like the Volkswagen Jetta TDI have been a welcome option. The ability to deliver real performance along with high mileage is one reason why diesel sales have continued to grow even as demand for gas-electric models has plunged in the face of cheap gas.
But that growth spurt is likely to sputter, in the wake of the Volkswagen cheating scandal, industry insiders warn. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered the recall of 482,000 VW diesel models in the U.S., revealing that the German automaker had used software to secretly circumvent the government's emissions tests. In real world situations, vehicles like the Jetta TDI actually produce up to 40 times the permissible level of noxious emissions.
"This is another black eye for diesels," said Mike Jackson, CEO of Florida-based AutoNation, the country's largest automotive retailer. "You now have a passionate constituency that feels betrayed."