Volkswagen has left a gaping hole in the U.S. auto market.
The German automaker’s line of affordable turbodiesel vehicles is mostly non-existent as the fallout from last year’s emission scandal continues to unfold.
Volkswagen’s small and midsize vehicles are no longer certified for sale in the United States, and the company has, thus far, made no effort to attempt recertification. That means buyers will be hard-pressed to find a VW with a diesel engine on dealer lots across the country.
That’s in stark contrast to earlier in 2015, when Volkswagen diesels accounted for about 20 percent of the company’s sales.
Volkswagen proved that a demand for diesel exists in this country and has left an opportunity for another automaker to take the reins and attempt to satisfy whatever hunger might be left for fuel-efficient diesels.
Mazda appears ready to try its hand at becoming that automaker.
Volkswagen’s troubles started when engineers couldn’t make diesel engines compliant with stringent emissions laws in this country. As most of us know by now, rather than delay the motors until they could come into compliance, the company created an illegal work-around that cheated on emissions testing.
Mazda believes it can succeed where Volkswagen failed. The Japanese company hopes to build engines that are legal and comply with all laws, and even has a plan to introduce them here.
The automaker’s U.S. boss Masamichi Kogai said that diesel-powered Mazdas are still coming and even has an internal timeline as to when they will arrive, but didn’t share a date.
Kogai told Automotive News that he wants to launch diesel-powered vehicles while he’s still the head of Mazda North American Operations. Due to strict emissions standards in the U.S., Mazda has struggled to make its Skyactiv-D diesel engine compliant without the need to use an exhaust after-treatment system. Hiroyuki Matsumoto, the general manager of vehicle development at Mazda says that he is confident that the automaker will be able to achieve clean emissions without sacrificing performance.
Americans will likely be skeptical of new diesel technology for a long time. However, if gas and diesel prices remain inexpensive and if Mazda can get its engines past eagle-eyed U.S. regulators, it could start winning over diesel fans and find itself filling Volkswagen’s massive vacancy.
Can Mazda take over where Volkswagen left off with diesels in the United States?