2017 Audi Q7 TDI Quattro
Do diesel cars have a future in the U.S.? The Volkswagen emissions scandal is still rumbling on like a vast, sooty mess, and plenty of pundits are predicting the end for compression ignition in smaller vehicles. Not Audi, though, with the president of Audi USA, Scott Keogh, saying last week in Detroit that he thinks TDI still has a future over here, albeit probably one limited to a relatively small part of the market.
“I think there’s a future, that’s point number one,” he told journalists at an NAIAS press conference. “We’ve got to get the cars out there fixed, and we will get them fixed. We’ve got to make it right by the customers and right by the dealers. But I do see a market for cars that have a lot of torque and a lot of range, although I think it will be significantly stronger for SUVs than it is for passenger cars.”
Keogh argued that falling fuel prices have probably done as much to cut demand for smaller diesel engines as the emissions scandal.
“Look at fuel prices and TDI mixes across the board have come significantly down,” he said. “I think the other thing driving them down is the unknown factor [of the emissions scandal], and we have to get that clarified, fix the cars, and get them back on the road . . . But long-term I do see a market for diesel, particularly SUVs. I don’t see fuel prices [remaining at] $2 or $2.30 a gallon. The price will rise again.”
It looks less likely that Audi will follow the launch of the forthcoming A4 Allroad with the larger A6 model.
“That’s definitely not decided,” Keogh said, with Audi USA’s director of product management, Filip Brabec, adding that large wagons remain a tough sell in the U.S., especially wearing luxury price tags (and despite our best efforts to sing their praises). As before, the new A4 Allroad will be the only Avant variant to cross the Atlantic—and likely also the only Allroad.
“The [last A4 Allroad] far exceeded the targets we had for it. We had a decent price premium and sold more volume than we did for the Avant,” Keogh said.
Indeed, if you’re waiting for one of the Audi variants sold in other parts of the world but not here, you’re likely to face, at best, a long delay.
“Complexity brings cost and complication,” Keogh said. “Particularly with us, [since] we don’t have local manufacturing. Complexity has a big impact because you have to get that car from Slovakia or Germany all the way here . . . Complexity hurts every dealership because if you don’t see it there, they are going to have to call another dealership and make a trade. This is all margin being burned away if you don’t have the right cars on the ground that customers want.”
“There is a place where you can have too much, when the car you launch is 100 percent a substitution for another one you sell.”
2016 Detroit Auto Show Full Coverage