German automakers are the driving force behind a big push for diesel cars in the U.S., and consumers are responding even better than some executives hoped. Even Volkswagen is blown away by the take rate of diesel vehicles, with actual sales almost twice what internal analysts projected. Almost 30% of Passat customers are opting for the new TDI motor, a record take rate.
With more than 800 miles of driving range thanks to a 43 mpg highway rating, the midsize Volkswagen Passat TDI offers one of the most compelling arguments for “super commuters” who spend nearly as much time driving as they do working everyday. Volkswagen diesel engines are also legendarily reliable, and many conquest consumers are coming from other brands that probably don’t even offer a midsize diesel vehicle.
Jonathan Browning, Volkswagen’s boss of the Americas, said internal projections originally forecast a 17% take rate for the Passat TDI, as Volkswagen was concerned that just getting customers into a VW dealership would be difficult. But what they found is that car owners don’t have as much brand loyalty as they used to, and consumers will jump to just about any brand that offers the right kind of vehicle.
I predict that in 5 years there will be a glut of 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDIs with 150,000+ miles on them hitting the used car market, and that diesel cars will make up a much-larger part of overall new car sales. Diesel vehicle sales have surged in 2014 thanks to new offerings, and it looks like Volkswagen is the biggest winner so far, thanks to both its reputation among diesel lovers and by building the right car at the right time for the American market. There are a lot more diesel options on the way though, and Vdub will soon have a more crowded field to compete with.