VW to build Atlas TDI diesel in U.S., but only for export to Russia


2018 Volkswagen Atlas

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Enlarge Photo

The ongoing diesel scandal means all Volkswagen and Audi TDI models are still absent from U.S. showrooms—and likely will be for some years to come.

Even a new TDI diesel model that will be built only in the U.S. won't be sold here.

That would be the Volkswagen Atlas TDI, a diesel version of the Atlas 7-seat crossover utility vehicle unveiled last week at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show.

DON'T MISS: 2018 Volkswagen Atlas 7-seat SUV unveiled; plug-in hybrid coming, but when?

The Atlas TDI will be built in the U.S., but exported to Russia according to Automotive News (subscription required).

Citing an anonymous executive with knowledge of VW's product plans, the industry trade journal said sales of the Atlas TDI would be limited to Russia, with no plans to sell the vehicle in the U.S., Canada, or even Western Europe.

The Atlas was designed primarily to appeal to U.S. buyers, so it will be built at VW's Chattanooga, Tennessee, factory, alongside U.S.-market versions of the Passat mid-size sedan.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Enlarge Photo

The automaker invested $900 million in the Chattanooga factory to prep it for Atlas production, in fact, and it's the sole global assembly plant for VW's largest current vehicle.

Given its limited market, the TDI version of the big utility vehicle will likely represent a very small proportion of overall Atlas production.

The Atlas TDI will reportedly use a 2.0-liter engine, but no other details are available at this time.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf: 124 miles of range, more motor power, LA Auto Show debut

Before the discovery of VW's use of illegal "defeat device" software to cheat on emissions tests, the Atlas TDI was slated for U.S. sales as well as the highest-efficiency version of the Atlas lineup.

Instead, U.S.-market versions of the Atlas will be offered with two gasoline engines: a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4, and a 3.6-liter VR6 narrow-angle V-6.

The 4-cylinder engine is rated at 238 horsepower, while the VR6 is rated at 280 hp.

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Enlarge Photo

Both engines will be offered with an 8-speed automatic transmission, with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive.

Volkswagen may also offer a plug-in hybrid powertrain option at a future date.

Some of the concept cars that previewed the Atlas featured plug-in hybrid powertrains, and VW currently sells both Golf GTE and Passat GTE plug-in hybrid passenger cars in Europe.

MORE: Why VW killed its TDI diesels in the U.S.: future emission standards

While plug-in hybrids may join the lineup, Volkswagen likely won't return to selling diesels in the U.S. for at least the next couple of years as it deals with the continuing "Dieselgate" scandal.

And even if they do return to the U.S., VW TDI diesel models may not sell in the numbers they did previously.

The expense of the exhaust aftertreatment hardware that would let diesel vehicles actually meet strict emissions standards means that Volkswagen, like other makers, would likely restrict any future diesels to higher-end and lower-volume utility vehicles.

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