Volkswagen’s U.S. Diesel Strategy: An Interview with Doug Skorupski
Editor’s note: this is the second in a series of interviews with executives at automakers that offer diesel-powered automobiles in the United States.
Volkswagen has offered diesel-powered vehicles in the U.S. for decades and in the last few years it has offered TDI engines in more models than ever before. Now the U.S. diesel marketplace is heating up – and doing so quickly. We sat down with Doug Skorupski, the Alternate Fuels Technical Strategy Manager at Volkswagen of America to see what we can find out about the future of diesel at Volkswagen.
Jonathan Spira: How would you characterize diesel sales?
Doug Skorupski: I would say that diesel is selling extremely well. Last month we saw an overall 20% take rate across our fleet, which is just tremendous. If you compare this figure to hybrids and consider how long they have been on the market, 20% is phenomenal.
JS: What do you foresee in terms of diesel sales in the next year or two?
DS: I am optimistic that the installation – or as you call it take rate – will continue to grow. As more and more people experience our diesel engines, and as more of our competitors offer diesels, this will lead to a better understanding of diesel technology and will benefit Volkswagen. Diesel offers customers the fuel efficiency they are looking for without sacrificing driveability, which is key to its success. Gasoline cars are making progress in regards to fuel economy, but when it comes to real-world fuel economy and driving performance, diesel exceeds expectations, and our customers who have experienced have easily recognized it.
JS: It sounds to me like diesel has become almost mainstream in some respects.
DS: I agree. It is one thing when you talk about the adoption of diesel in models like the Jetta SportWagen or Touareg, but when you see the diesel take rate in high-volume models such as the Jetta and Passat, you can see that mainstream customers are going diesel.
JS: Are there any particular types of customers more likely to buy diesel from your experience?
DS: Based on our data, the typical diesel buyer is male and the price point is more fluid, but I foresee this broadening as awareness increases and more and more people experience our engines.
JS: Do you see diesel as a solution to meet increased fuel economy and decrease greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in light of today’s CAFE standards announcement?
DS: Yes, and I think that the federal government does as well. Diesels are one of the technologies mentioned in the CAFE announcement, and at a recent SAE government and industry conference, one of the presentations on this topic had a slide showing several of our current models meeting the 2019 standards. We view diesel as a way to achieve the new targets and the government sees that as well.