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June 23, 2003

USA: Dealers to help VW prod government over diesel – report

Volkswagen of America (VWA) has said that its dealers will play a critical role in prodding the US government to develop regulations promoting diesel technology, according to WardsAuto.com. The website said that VWA vice president-sales and marketing, Frank Maguire, said that his company intends to increase advertising of its diesel models, promoting the fuel economy benefits diesels produce over petrol engines, while not venturing into how much diesel engines have improved over the last 20 years.

By bcusack

Volkswagen of America (VWA) has said that its dealers will play a critical role in prodding the US government to develop regulations promoting diesel technology, according to WardsAuto.com.

The website said that VWA vice president-sales and marketing, Frank Maguire, said that his company intends to increase advertising of its diesel models, promoting the fuel economy benefits diesels produce over petrol engines, while not venturing into how much diesel engines have improved over the last 20 years.

“The old stuff that GM (General Motors) did really hurt the diesel technology that is available today,” he told Ward’s during a media introduction for the new VW Touareg SUV, referring to GM’s failed effort to sell diesel engines in passenger cars in the 1980s.

“Diesel technology today is not loud, noisy, smelly, smoky,” Maguire said, according to WardsAuto.com. “Volkswagen believes there are two areas that we have to be environmentally conscious about: the economy and clean-burning fuel. We think that the diesel technology that we have can deliver on both of these.”

WardsAuto.com said advertising alone isn’t going to help change the minds of consumers and policy makers and, citing sources, noted that VW chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder has asked his US operations team to coordinate an event in Washington that will help promote the advantages of diesels to US policy makers.

VW is in the early stages of planning the event for later this year, in which the chairman himself will bring VW’s diesel message to the US, WardsAuto.com said.

According to the website, Maguire has asked the National Automobile Dealers Association to use its lobbying power to influence the course of diesel technology in the US marketplace. “When that huge, strong, powerful economic group starts speaking to the government, they listen,” he reportedly said.

WardsAuto.com said diesels make up 15% to 20% of VW’s annual US sales volume, while its European diesel penetration is more than 50%. In two years, Maguire hopes to grow diesel penetration by 5% in the US, with the long-term goal of attaining par with Europe, the report added.

According to WardsAuto.com, VW is not alone in its effort to bring diesel powertrains to the US. DaimlerChrysler plans to bring a diesel Mercedes E-Class passenger car and Jeep Liberty SUV to the US for the 2004 model year and Ford has reportedly talked about a diesel Focus, but no decision has been made. Both Ford and GM offer diesel powertrains on their full-size pickup trucks, the website added.

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