AVOIDING DIESELS: US Volkswagen dealers are unable to sell four-cylinder diesel models because of the company's admission to falsifying emission tests. Image: VW
California - At the Volkswagen of Oakland dealership in California, the automaker company's "clean diesel" powered cars were a big hit with eco-friendly customers.
Now, following VW's admission that it rigged emissions tests of its diesel cars in the United States, a line of 2015 diesel Golf Sportwagens sit unsellable in the lot, because sales are suspended until further notice.
Sales manager Chris Murphy, said: "We definitely feel betrayed."
He called the scandal: "a hit for the brand."
VW Purposefully lowered emissions
The world's biggest automaker told the Environmental Protection Agency that it used special software to lower emissions during vehicle inspections by US regulators.
Murphy said: "I'd be pissed if I were a consumer. A lot of people may have bought it for the eco-friendly elements."
Although consumers in all states are affected, the sting is particularly acute in California, which prides itself on its environmental record and where most VW diesel car owners live.
Californians own 14% of all VW diesel cars affected in the scandal, compared with Texans at 7% and Floridians at 5.7%, according to Kelly Blue Book.
California's regulators were first alerted to emissions problems in VW's diesel cars in 2014.
With VW's disclosure on Tuesday (September 22) that 11 million cars are affected, both auto dealers and owners are reeling, with irate consumers flooding Twitter with a #BoycottVW hashtag and online forums for diesel fans abuzz with anger and skepticism.
One owner wrote on the VW Vortex forum: "Thanks to VW's blatant and intentional fraud, I am now the subject of ridicule for having bragged about my good gas mileage and reliability."
Possible loss of resale value
VW diesel enthusiast Fred Voglmaier, whose "TDI Club" forum saw over 2 000 posts on the topic since Friday (September 25), said owners worry about loss of performance if VW performs a fix, as well as resale value.
Voglmaier said: "There is a lot of angst and wild guessing as no one really knows what is going to happen.
"It's created a bit of a panic among some, no matter what the outcome is. Many feel cheated by Volkswagen."
For now, car owners and dealers are uncertain whether VW will allow trade-ins of affected cars, or have them fixed.
A letter sent by VW on Monday to its US dealers and seen by Reuters says a "mandatory stop-sale order" is in effect for 2009 to 2015 models with a two-litre diesel engine.
"Volkswagen is currently working on a remedy to address this issue," wrote the letter. It said dealers will be reimbursed for expenses until repair instructions are released.
Dealers can advise owners "the matter under investigation... does not involve a defect relating to safety," VW said, adding owners "do not need to take action at this time."
A Volkswagen spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking more information.
"Cars are safe and legal to drive"
The EPA on its website said VW will likely send owners a recall notice but that cars were "safe and legal to drive."
For now, dealer Murphy said he doesn't know what to tell his customers, who may demand a refund or exchange for their car.
Murphy said: "We can't take the hit for it," he said. "That would put us out of business."
Already, the fallout has affected sales, with customers who had been ready to buy now balking, he said.
Murphy added: "We're getting emails like, 'Hey, I'm going to hold off on diesel for right now."
Owner Voglmaier said the bigger question is what the fallout means for diesel cars in North America.
Murphy said: "It's been a long road and finally it has started to gain better traction and acceptance," he said. "Now this could be a huge setback ... for all manufacturers and not just Volkswagen."
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