Soaring demand for Volkswagen’s clean diesel Jetta Sportwagen TDI has left VW dealerships unable to keep up with demand. Waiting lists for the $24,000 vehicle—with MPG ratings of 30 city / 42 highway—are as long as 45 days in some Southern California dealerships.
So far this year, 80 percent of Jetta Sportwagens sold were clean diesel. The numbers tally at 8,072 TDI Sportwagens and 3,802 with gas-powered engines.
“We’re almost selling them off the trucks,” said Tom Wegehaupt, Volkswagen PR specialist, in an interview with HybridCars.com. “As soon as they’re on dealer lots, they’re gone.” The demand for the Sportwagen TDI is especially striking, considering a dismal auto market that has left most dealers desperate for customers.
Demand for the clean diesel Jetta Sportwagen prior to the Cash for Clunkers program left VW dealership inventories stretched to the limit. With the Clunkers program, inventory for the vehicle was depleted in areas of the country—mostly East and West Coasts where diesel vehicles and Volkswagens are most popular. The problem is exacerbated by the Sportwagen TDI going through a model year changeover, with an inventory gap between the outgoing 2009 version being phased out and the redesigned 2010 version arriving in dealerships this month.
“Eighty percent of all Sportwagens that were sold had the TDI engine in it. The TDI penetration rate was spectacular,” Wegehaupt said. “It caught us off guard a little bit.” He said that about 30 percent of Jetta sedans were clean diesel.
The Comeback of the Wagon?
Wegehaupt believes consumers are seeing the Sportwagen as a better and more economic alternative to SUVs. “With the Sportwagen, you get all the form and functionality of an SUV, with tremendous cargo room,” he said. “It’s like having an SUV, but in a very fuel-efficient package, especially with a TDI engine.”
The suggested retail price of the 2010 Jetta Sportwagen TDI starts at $24,310—compared to the similarly equipped gas-version that begins at $22,950. That extra cost is eliminated by the federal tax credit of $1,300, offered as part of the federal government’s “Qualified Advanced Lean-Burn Technology” program. In addition, diesel vehicles generally maintain a better resale value than gas-powered cars.
Shifting fuel prices have also benefited diesels. For most of 2008, diesel prices were significantly higher than gasoline. Currently, diesel prices are about 10 cents higher than gas on a national level. But in California, where clean diesel is popular, diesel is nearly 30 cents lower than gasoline. “When diesel prices go down, our diesel sales go up,” said Wegehaupt.
FoxBusiness.com reported that TDI clean diesel sales in Canada were also very strong—accounting for 68 percent of all Jetta sedan and wagon sales, and 23 percent of overall Volkswagen sales in September.
Sportwagen TDI, The Prius of Clean Diesel
From January through September 2009, Volkswagen sold 8,072 Jetta Sportwagen TDIs, and 3,802 gas models in the United States. Sportwagen TDI sales peaked in July with nearly 2,000 sales—neck and neck with Toyota sales of the Prius in July. In many respects, the Sportwagen TDI is to clean diesel what Prius is to hybrid: the halo vehicle that succeeds for its fuel-efficient technology but more importantly for the sum total of its benefits, functions and design. Sales of clean diesel vehicles from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes—either luxury or SUV or both—have not performed nearly as well, much the same way that SUV and luxury hybrids have lagged behind the Prius.
With low inventory, Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen TDI sales dropped below 400 units in August. VW is hoping that interest in the vehicle remains strong as the company restocks dealerships with the 2010 model, and prepares for the Golf TDI sedan—30 mpg city / 42 high mpg—to hit showrooms later this month. VW today announced a starting price tag of $21,990 for the Golf diesel.