VW: Americans Won't Pay More For Gas-Saving Extras

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2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (European model), 2012 Paris Motor Show

2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (European model), 2012 Paris Motor Show

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Last week, at the 2012 Paris Auto Show, Volkswagen unveiled its all-new 2014 Golf family, including the highly-efficient VW Golf BlueMotion diesel.

A car, which as Volkswagen has already stated, the U.S. won’t be getting.

That’s because Americans aren’t willing to pay extra for fuel-efficient models of regular gasoline and diesel cars, says Volkswagen’s head of development, Ulrich Hackenberg.

Talking to CarandDriver last week at an event where Volkswagen laid out its future green car plans for theVW, Audi, and Porsche brands, Hackenberg confirmed that the U.S. would continue get a diesel-powered option for the popular hatchback when the seventh-generation, 2014 Golf launches next year. 

Unlike its european sibling however, the 2014 Golf TDI won’t get the unique gear ratios, aerodynamic tweaks, special low rolling resistance tires, reduced ride height, and weight saving of the Bluemotion model. 

Essentially, while those tweaks make a positive impact on gas mileage, they also increase sticker price, something VW is reticent to do in a market where diesel cars are already considered niche market vehicles. 

Instead, VW plans to offer less extreme fuel saving technology on its U.S. market Golf, including engine stop-start as standard, and an optional sail mode. 

Already standard on the 2012 Touareg hybrid, sail mode disengages the transmission from the engine on accelerator liftoff, allowing the car to coast down hills at high speed, idling the engine to save fuel.

2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (European model), 2012 Paris Motor Show

2013 Volkswagen Golf BlueMotion (European model), 2012 Paris Motor Show

Enlarge Photo

While VW may be convinced that U.S. consumers aren’t ready, or willing, to pay extra cash for fuel-saving optional extras, it’s worth noting that many competitors to the Golf, including the 2013 Ford Focus, 2013 Dodge Dart, and 2013 Chevrolet Cruze, are available as high gas-mileage, eco-minded versions.

Is Volkswagen correct? Are consumers not ready to pay extra for fuel-saving options? 

Have other automakers proven VW wrong, or does VW's statement about excess cost only apply to niche-market vehicles? 

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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Comments (11)
  1. I wonder if VW fears it would change their brand image if they pushed ECO rather than SPORT in the US marketplace?

  2. Americans don't want to pay more for anything, they try in vein to send as little as possible. I rather pay a more because I know I'll get more. Plus buying a more efficient car to start with means your most likely to keep it longer because gas prices will not effect you as much over time. It seem like every time gas goes down in price Americans go out and start buying big cars again even if it only goes down ten cents. And this is what I mean by trying in vein, we ignore efficiency due to cost, then we go out spend a little bit more for a bigger car, and the get hit by fluctuating gas prices so in the end your spending more on an annual basis and your more likely to make a costly trade when you do realize you need efficiency.

  3. How much people are willing to pay for better fuel efficiency depends on the cost and efficiency, as well as where it is applied.
    A 5 mpg difference isn't as big a deal in a car that may already do 30 mpg as in a car that does 15 mpg. The fuel efficiency improvements also need to be in proportion to the extra cost before droves of people will start buying them.

  4. Sure, but 5 mpg on top of a 30mpg is about 1/6.

    Would anyone pay 1/6 more for 30mpg? $18K car with 1/6 more is $3,000. $24k car with 1/6 extra is $4,000.

  5. Good points, I think and ones that are clearly overlooked in the ridiculously partisan attack on CAFE or any type of government-mandated mileage or emissions standards. People complaining about spending $2k-$4k for a car with better mileage that saves them more than that in the first 3-4 years baffle me, unless they're truly living paycheck to paycheck. Let's look at a real example.

    15k miles annually. At 15 MPG, that's 1k gallons or $4k annually at $4/gallon. To go to 20 MPG (very tough from 15 to 20...), 750 gallons or 250 gallons/$1k savings annually. If the vehicle costs even $4k more, you've still recouped the higher initial cost within four years, even w/ no gas increases, which is unlikely, of course, at least long term.

  6. If going from 30 MPG to 35 MPG, you're going from 500 gallons to 429. 71 gallons saved annually, or only $284 annually. So depending on the amount of increase in initial vehicloe price, one may not get the overall savings. So I'd agree, as would almost anyone here, I trust, that mileage/emissions improvements mean much more when starting from a lower MPG base. John V. has mentioned this several times here as well.

    Using $3k as a middle ground estimate for the many changes necessary to get better mileage, for most vehicles, the payoff is within the first 3-4 years.

    I actually would prefer a mix of gas tax increases and incentives, not only CAFE, but in our world where no tax increases can ever happen, that's just not an option.

  7. The Golf looks great and I would love to drive one. Don't know if I could afford the upkeep on a car with a turbo and a supercharger all in one. I have heard horror stories about how expensive VW's can be when they break down. A friend told me a few years ago that they had to spend 6 grand on their diesel Jetta to rebuild the engine. I can't tell you if it was something they neglected, or if it was a defect. For now, I will steer clear of VW until their dependability record improves.

  8. Many people are "shortsighted"...

  9. Due to competiveness of the US market, VW cannot command the price premiums here that they can elsewhere so they allocate cars where they can make the most money. It also costs a ton to get an engine group federalized and VW/Aud have two federalized diesels, the 2.0 and 3.0 V6. The BlueMotion engine would be a new engine family and the risk of low sales vs the expense to federalize the engine does not make good business sense. The diesel VW's we get here would fetch a lot more money over yonder so why try to beat yourself to death offering a lot of choice here when more money can be made elsewhere. Volume is the only reason to do it and the 2.0 diesel satisfies enough people to get the volume.

  10. How about changing driving style...that costs nothing.

  11. VW already gets $5000 more for a diesel engine, not as clean as a gasoline engine.

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