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VW May Build Diesels in the U.S.


Volkswagen AG is considering building diesel engines somewhere in North America as part of its effort to expand sales in theUnited States, Volkswagen of America’s new chief executive said as the company rolled out its latest diesel promotion for reporters.

Stefan Jacoby, chief executive officer of Volkswagen of America Inc., said VWoA is fully committed to bringing latest diesel technology to the U.S. , starting next year.

 

"It all comes together as we localize our model range (for North America," Jacoby said. "We are investigating a plant location in the United States. We have an engine plant in Mexico and we have to define what kind of engine to offer here in the United States," Jacoby added.

Jacoby said while there is no timetable for deciding when to build the plant in the U.S., the influential German metalworkers’ union will not be able to block the investment in the U.S. He also told TheCarConnection.com that VW was not interested in using a contract assembler to run an American plant.

Jacoby also suggested VW's management was willing to depart from its traditional "Father Knows Best" approach to product planning as it prepares for the future.

"Let's see how successful diesel will be," Jacoby told reporters last week. "We're also investigating much more efficient gasoline engines and we have to define our overall strategy for the American market," Jacoby said. He also avoided making any sales predictions.

Jacoby spoke as the company was launching its new "Dieselution Tour," which was designed specifically to show off some of the advantages of VW's "Clean Diesel" technology at various events around the U.S. including the Super Bowl.

The Dieseloution Tour will be traveling around the country ahead of VW's launch next spring of the 2009 Jetta TDI, which will be the first VW equipped with the clean-diesel technology and the first diesel from VW that can be sold in all 50 states. The next VW vehicle to get the technology is the clean-diesel version of the Touareg, which will go on sale in 2009, Jacoby said.

"Volkswagen of America considers the Dieselution Tour an important informational resource for everyone concerned about the environment and improved fuel economy standards," said Jacoby. "We want to show Americans that today's clean diesel technology is a quantum leap from the powerplants introduced nearly 30 years ago," he said.

"As the diesel car sales leader in the United States, we have worked hard to make our diesels cleaner, quieter, and more fuel efficient," VW spokesman Keith Price added. "Once consumers realize that a clean diesel alternative can improve their fuel economy by nearly 35 percent over comparable gasoline engines, we're confident that many drivers will visit their local Volkswagen dealerships," he said.

VW officials also noted that more consumers are willing to at least consider driving a vehicle powered by a diesel engine. That's a significant development, as in the U.S. diesels have long been associated with noise, smoke-belching trucks, and clattering construction machinery. The technology, however, has developed a big following in Europe and better than 40 percent of the vehicles VW sells in its home market are equipped with clean-diesel engines, Jacoby said.

The Dieselution Tour itself is something of departure for German automakers since it will actively sell the advantages of the new technology. Over the years, German carmakers have usually assumed consumers automatically understood the advantages of sophisticated technology and were frustrated to no end when consumers ignored it.

The Dieselution Tour is built around a 53-foot-long, double-expandable semi-trailer and it includes interactive and video displays; a Diesel Heritage section and a Sustainability Station with Carbon Footprint Calculator. Bits and pieces of VW's diesel heritage are also on display.

The display also includes a 2009 Jetta TDI, 50-state clean diesel offering. The vehicle is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. in spring of 2008. Also on display, are a 3.0-liter V-6 TDI Touareg, the Polo Blue Motion, and the oldest Volkswagen diesel in America, a 1977 Rabbit.

Price said the Dieselution Tour will be certified as CarbonFree by Carbonfund.org. Volkswagen and Carbonfund.org recently announced a partnership to offset one year of carbon emissions from each new Volkswagen sold in the U.S. from September, 2007 through January 2, 2008.  In return, Volkswagen is working with Carbonfund.org to reforest land in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) in northern Louisiana , a wetland ecosystem that had been largely converted to farmland.

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