The four horsemen of the Diesel Apocalypse are saddling up. The signs are everywhere:
- Studies show that diesel emissions are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths each year;
- Automakers and suppliers the world over are being sued for not complying with clean-air laws; and,
- Many countries are planning to outlaw diesels (as well as gas-powered vehicles) within the next 20 or 30 years, anticipating a transition to emissions-free electric cars.
Plenty of automakers are getting the hint, especially those in Europe, who rely heavily on diesels. German brands like Mercedes-Benz and VW have already announced that they're scaling back diesel production. This week, Porsche may have added itself to that list, even as its sibling, Audi, tried to remain bullish about diesel's future.
Speaking to the press, Porsche CEO Oliver Blume said that the current fleet of diesel models may be the brand's last. A final decision will be made within the next three years.
If that were to happen, it would be a significant but not devastating change for Porsche, which could supplant diesel models with electric vehicles. Currently, about 15 percent of the vehicles Porsche sells run on diesel; by the early 2020s, however, Porsche expects that at least that much of its fleet will be powered by electricity--perhaps even as much as 35 percent.
That's in keeping with a promise made by the CEO of Porsche's parent company, Volkswagen, to launch more than 30 electric models by the year 2025.
However, Porsche's sister, Audi, isn't letting diesels go down without a fight. This morning, the company announced plans to upgrade the software on some 850,000 diesels worldwide to ensure that their real-world emissions meet or exceed air-quality standards. (The plans don't include vehicles in the U.S., which are subject to similar but related fixes thanks to the Dieselgate settlement.)
In its release, Audi says:
Audi aims to maintain the future viability of diesel engines for its customers and to make a contribution towards improving air quality. At the same time, Audi is convinced that this program will counteract possible bans on vehicles with diesel engines. With their low fuel consumption, diesel engines help to achieve the ambitious CO2 targets in Europe, which is another reason why Audi has decided to offer this retrofit program.
The question is: can Audi pull off that feat while keeping diesel fans happy? Volkswagen wasn't able to do so, which is why its engineers installed defeat devices on 11 million diesels worldwide--defeat devices pioneered by Audi, it's worth noting. Given the fact that Audi's own diesels were part of Dieselgate, we're not entirely sure that Audi can deliver on its promises.