High-Mileage Clean Diesels Get Big Clunker Incentives

July 29, 2009

Lots of carmakers are offering "Cash for Clunkers"-related deals--including Chrysler, which is simply giving buyers $4,500 back for any of its cars, regardless of tradein, and Hyundai, which even jumped the gun on the feds.

Now, makers of new clean diesel models are jumping on the clunker caravan as well. If you're going to trade in your clunker, to get the maximum of $4,500 cash you need to buy a car that gets 10 miles per gallon more than the tradein. And many diesels do just that.

Volkswagen,  which we've always through will be the big winner in selling clean diesels to US buyers, is touting its TDI models as the best possible clunker replacements.

The company points out that buying a 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI is a guaranteed way to get the maximum $4,500 cash-for-clunkers benefit, since it gets far more than 28 miles per gallon (which is 10 mpg higher than the best qualifying clunker, at 18 mpg).

In fact, the 2009 Jetta TDI gets 29 mpg city / 40 mpg highway for the automatic, 30 / 41 for the manual.

As VW's Mark Barnes pointed out to WardsAuto.com, "Add [$4,500] to the $1,300 diesel tax credit, you’re talking about $6,000 off on the (Jetta) TDI." Of course, you actually have to have a clunker to trade in on your new Jetta TDI.

Adding even more incentive, many say that the Jetta TDI gets much higher mileage than the EPA tests reveal--as high as 40 mpg-plus in real-world use.

As of 2009, BMW also makes clean diesels. But despite IRS tax credits and much better mileage than their gasoline equivalents, the maker of ultimate driving machines seems to be struggling to sell the 2009 BMW 335d sports sedan and 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d.

Now, BMW has added new incentives for its diesels to piggyback on the start of the Cash for Clunkers plan, which is properly known as the Car Allowance Rebate Systems (CARS) program.

Through August 31, says BMW, it will give buyers--and that's all buyers, not just those with clunkers--a "$4,500 Eco Credit" toward purchase of either diesel . Those buyers also get a tax credit: $1,800 for the X5 diesel, $900 for the 335d.

BMW's tactic of discounts for all makes sense, since we suspect the overlap between clunker pilots and BMW buyers isn't very large. The 2009 BMW 335d starts at roughly $45,000, and the 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d stickers at more than $52,000.

Still, an immediate discount of $5,000-plus on either car is nothing to sneeze at. If you happen to want a diesel BMW, that is.

We've driven both vehicles, which are powered by identical 265-horsepower, 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engines. We gave a thumbs-up to the 335d sports sedan, but we didn't much like the diesel BMW X5.

In any case, if you want a clean diesel car, now's the time. Whether it's a compact 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI sedan or a huge, intimidating 2009 BMW X5 xDrive35d sport-ute, the deals are yours for the taking. Tax credits, too.

2009 BMW 335d

2009 BMW 335d

[egmCarTech, WardsAuto]

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