VW Overwhelmed by Demand for Clean Diesel Sportwagen

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.

The Numbers

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.

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  • FamilyGuy

    Looks pretty interesting. Am I willing to trade my AWD (25MPG) for a FWD getting 30/42MPG? I’m not entirely sold on VW. My Wife had a Jetta and it drove me crazy. I’d like to see the reviews of a year or so of service and if people still like them. But I definitely like the idea and will look into it when the time comes.

  • simon@syd

    This ‘clean diesel’ : what are its stats regarding nitrogen oxides & particulates? Here in Sydney we dont want any more of them – our tunnels are distinctly unhealthy places.

  • flybri

    Had an ’85 Jetta and loved it for 11 years – so well thought out, everything fell to hand, lots of trunk space, etc. Sat in an ’06 and was baffled by the bad ergonomics. Has VW figured it out again?

  • usbseawolf2000

    Clean Diesel is all hype. It is not even as clean as the Jetta gasoline version.

    Jetta TDI NOx is 4x higher in the city and 3x higher on the highway compare to the Jetta gasoline.

    For emission comparison with other cars including Prius see below:


  • BMW Fan

    Why all the sarcasm about “clean diesel?” I can understand sarcasm about “clean coal,” but I’m not going there…

    Based on the Prius and other car comparison, the Diesel VW has no worse pollution issues than a regular 2009 Gasoline Honda Civic. Would it be fair start calling Honda Civics dirty? I think not – and I can imagine a lot of cars and trucks that are probably much worse than a Civic.

    I understand that diesel fuel sold in the US prior to 2007 had sulfur content of 500ppm and that has now been lowered to 15ppm – a mere 3% of what it used to be. The high levels of sulfur contributed to acid rain and now the lower sulfur diesel greatly reduces the emissions of oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter.

    I think the response may be emotional – triggered by memories people have of being stuck behind sooty old Mercedes and truck diesels.

    I know VW doesn’t use this technology, but BMW and Mercedes are also treating their exhaust with urea to further neutralize oxides of nitrogen.

    I don’t understand all the negativity – I mean yes, a diesel’s exhaust is not as clean as a hybrid/gasoline car, but they are amazingly improved and are more efficient than gasoline engines, even when the greater energy density of diesel is taken into account. The Jetta Diesel even passes California’s uber strict clean air laws, so I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

  • usbseawolf2000

    Depending on the emission gas, the Jetta TDI can be as clean as the Civic or dirtier than the STI turbo.

    The green fuss was made by VW, making it appear to be greener than a comparable gas car or even a hybrid. Search for Jetta TDI vs. Prius Portland on youtube and see the videos. One of the video showed TDI tire smoking while stating it is the North American Green Car of the year. I find that very ironic.

  • Anonymous

    diesels = Torque thats what Americans want , good mileage is a bonus

  • Mr. Fusion

    How quickly we forget.
    What was the price of diesel last year?

  • Scott Z

    usbseawolf2000? Did you even look at your own link?

    The VW diesel is a ULEV. That is Ultra Low Emission. The numbers are great compared to 99% of the cars you can buy. Sure the Prius is better but the point is VW offers another option to get great gas mileage and low emissions.

    If you want torque get a Prius. Electricity is instant torque! Just like hitting the button on your trusty DeWalt cordless drill! I look forward with glee to future hybrid or all electric cars.

  • Dom

    Thank you for such a positive article on this vehicle… especially considering this is primarily a hybrid focused website.

    I’m really happy to see VW doing so well with their TDIs… they really are great cars. If I was in the market for a new car the Sportswagon TDI would be it.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Dom, some hybrids will be coming out with a diesel instead of the gas engine for the combustion source of energy. Anything that promotes less oil usage, which tends to be mostly hybrids, is talked about on this site. Related “side issues” (EVs, TDI diesel, etc.) are more than welcome for discussion.

  • AugustEver

    I’m on my 3rd diesel and I’ve seen the progress that has been made. What I don’t understand is why diesel fuel is so cheap in Europe (the way it used to be in the US) but is now so high in the US. For years diesel was cheaper than regular gas. Then it went to being higher than premium gas. Now it’s down to the price of medium grade gasoline where I live.

    I have a 2007 MB Bluetec diesel now that gives me 35 – 37.5 on the highway at 75 mph and 26 – 27 in stop and go driving. So for long trips it’s king of the road with plenty of power. I also drive a Smart Car (for 1 yr now) that gives me 41 on the highway at 70-75 and 32-35 around town. It uses premium fuel though. I absolutely love my Smart but might consider swapping it for the Jetta Sportwagon TDI. I’m also lusting for a Chevy Volt because I could drive it for a month, put 600+ miles on it and use zero gasoline.

    Aah, but 40K for the Volt is tough to swallow when I could get a VW TDI Sportwagon for a lot less. I’m a dieselhead. I even had a Nissan Diesel Maxima back when they were called Datsun and it ran forever. All oif my diesels have been maintenance free and the one I have now is the best one yet. No smoky exhaust and gut- wrenching acceleration, things my 300DT never had. I also have instant starting…no more glow plug delay. My only concerns are, I’ve owned a Rabbit and a Scirocco. Had problems with both of them. Little stuff mostly. Electric windows failed continuously on the Scirocco requiring motor replacement under warranty several times. And the electric fuel pump in the fuel tank failed several times on my Rabbit leaving me stranded twice. I sure could have used an auxillary or backup fuel pump.

    So I’m leery of VWs. My old original VW Beetle was unbreakable but I’ve been stung twice by more recent watercooled VWs. So like “Familyguy” says: “I’d like to see the reviews of a year or so of service and if people still like them.”

  • Anonymous

    I live in the middle of nowhere. My car is usually traveling down back roads a 45 mph and rarely stops moving. Like it or not this is how many Americans live. The mileage benefit provided by hybrids in stop-and-go driving is largely irrelevant to people like me. The Prius gets 48 mpg on the highway and is smaller than the sport wagon, the Ford Fusion hybrid gets 36 mpg highway and isn’t a wagon. I think hybrids and electric cars are an awesome solution in many urban environments, however there is a huge rural market segment that does not benefit from current stop-and-go hybrids and small electric vehicles. Diesel wagons are the perfect solution for this part of the market. I hope Subaru sees the success of VWs TDI and brings diesel wagons to the US. The technology already exists but car makers refuse to sell it in the US. I hope this is the beginning of competition between diesel wagons in the US.

    By the way we don’t have any tunnels or smog out here and it looks like the TDI is about as clean as a normal 2009 Civic, that’s clean enough for here. If you are concerned about acid rain tell the coal power plants to put better scrubbers on their stacks. I’m pretty sure low sulfur diesel has virtually eliminated that problem in current diesels.

  • Cedar

    In any discussion about the virtues of diesel one should remember that it’s not really fair to compare diesel versus gasoline on a MPG basis. At least, not if your ultimate concern is using as little crude oil as possible to move your vehicle down the road.

    The Union of Concerned Scientists recommends discounting diesel MPG ratings by 20% when comparing to regular gasoline — that’s because it takes roughly that much more crude oil to make a gallon of diesel than it does a gallon of regular gasoline.

    Applying the 20% rule, the Jetta TDI gets not 30/42 MPG but more like 24/34, which is still pretty good compared to most small wagons.

    Now, what I’d really like to see (speaking as a northern Midwesterner who logs lots of snowy miles) is this car available with AWD — but add that extra weight and friction to the car and I don’t expect the mileage will look very much different than existing Subaru Outbacks or Audi A4 wagons.

  • Cedar

    Oops, forgot to cite the url for the Union of Concerned Scientists article (this link is to the summary, but you can download the whole article):


  • Bulkowski

    VW dealerships are smelly and dirty. Customer service is the worst ever.Unlike Acura, Toyota,they just don’t care. The 2010 wagen is still undergoing changes. The 2010 GTI Diesel will be a better buy.(comes with black cloth seats).

  • Scott Z

    While I am no chemist I believe saying it takes more oil to make a gallon of diesel is not completely correct. It appears to depend on how the oil is “cracked”. Seems the most common process in the US does make more gas then diesel but other processes can alter the outcome.


  • bebop

    The Jetta TDI wagon has been a highly sought after car here in the US ever since it was first announced. However VW in their ongoing US market stupidity and blindness has remained completely oblivious to the fact that every VW dealer in America has been selling the too few vehicles VW imported like hot cakes – even charging buyers a premium in order to get one. Wake up VW and smell the money your missing in the American market. And while your at it VWOA do something about the incredibly arrogant, anti-consumer friendly attitude of your dealers. After my recent experience in trying to locate and buy a Jetta Wagon TDI I gave up, swore off ever thinking about buying a VW again and got a great deal on a 2010 Prius from an awesome Toyota dealer instead.

  • Samie

    While other points focus on the effects of diesel, I think the point of the article is; consumers often demand vehicles that for some reason or another, producers fail to recognize their preferences within the auto industry. Logically, there is a lag effect b/t concept and being able to purchase the vehicle. Also huge investments are made in advertising and production of a vehicle. The one thing I do not understand, at all is why second tier car companies don’t capitalize on niche markets. Do they not have accountants and a marketing department that are suppose to find out what consumers want? Yes taking risk may cost you but when you have a good concept that others don’t, you should hammer out production issues and use your vehicle as a catalyst to promote other models that you intend to sell. This is what Toyota has done with the Camry and the Prius over the years. Nissan, another second tier car company may stumble over production issues, leasing batteries, and costs when they introduce the Leaf. Again you can use a niche vehicle to grow interest in other products you offer. I also don’t see why it is shocking to so many car producers when a vehicle that consumers wanted for awhile does good on the market. We may see a great hybrid mini van that sells like hot cakes but the producer is unable to meet the demand as if they had no clue in what consumers wanted. So the point here is if car companies could do a better job meeting consumer demands, say fast changing of models at a production facility or any other way, they should in the long run be a viable company even if it means they are a second tier company right now. The problem that happens within the auto industry is complacency, which is striking because the auto industry is too saturated w/ auto companies right now but we see little risk being taken in providing vehicles that consumers want.

  • simon@syd

    I think the cynicism is justified because ‘clean’ diesel is being touted by the European car makers as being ‘as clean as hybrid’. That is definately their agenda, particularly BMW. And yes the trigger of being stuck behind old diesels is a big trigger indeed for me – I despise that diesel!

    Here’s a good question: How clean is a clean diesel going to be after 10 years of hard use and probably neglect by a private user, compared to a hybrid with the same usage pattern? I believe that todays ‘clean diesel’ is tomorrows clunker, spewing out black clouds of particulates and Nox.

  • Ralph

    I just purchased a 2010 JSW TDI with manual transmission. I have studied this car for nine months. It is extraordinary. Fun to drive. Great mileage. Lots of storage room. Great build quality and very well engineered. We used to have a Honda Odyssey as the family car and we were disappointed. The Prius was too small and I don’t like the environmental impacts of the nickel metal hydride batteries. This JSW TDI will last 400,000 miles and we’ll have smiles on our faces for every mile. You guys continue the debate. I’ll keep enjoying every drive.

  • Scott Z

    simon@syd any car after a period of time with no maintenance will pollute a great deal more. That is true for a diesel as well as a Prius.

  • Brian D.

    I work for a Dealer in Brandon florida and we can’t keep these TDI’s on the lot. Again, sold off the truck! What i want to know is what dirty smelly dealer are you going to? I’ve worked at 2 dealers in the area and the 3rd I haven’t worked at owns this one. My facility is BEAUTIFUL!! Air conditioned shop, 24 +/- bays, clean lot, smoke free, Ceramic tile, aluminum, glass, stainless textiles, basically brand standards. If your VW’s facilities are shoddy, You should speak to the GM there and voice your concern and intention to go elsewhere. If they don’t give a damn then by all means move on. Don’t judge a car by the shop it is repaired in. Goodyear stores are nasty but GY tires are excellent products and are on a ton of cars.

    Second, the whole Prius/TDI debate should also address the level of car you get for the money you spend. ALL, and I mean ALL VW’s come standard with A/C, power everything, are dead silent at highway speeds, high end sound systems, Satallite radio/Ipod/bluetooth ready, MFI computer, intellient traction/ABS/Stability control and more airbags than most other comparable sized cars. Many have DVDRom NAV systems as well. STANDARD. I have worked for 2 different Toyota dealers before as well and most every Camry, Prius, and Corolla came with very little standard. Even the high end Hybrid versions of all did not option out like a VW. Also, the TDI is balls out FAST and FUN!! Bottom line. Great mileage (27 mph in the parking lot, 45+ on the highway) takes 5 adults to the beach with all their crap and can withstand an accident with a Ford F-350 DRW so you can walk away. Not a Prius!!! Oh and the Full panoramic glass roof is freakin awesome during clear nights. So cool!

  • Brian D.

    Also, I drive 110 miles a day to and from work Home and Kid care. Most everyone on the road here cruises at 75 to 85 mph. TDI’d are solid at 100mph as they are at 20mph and mileage is still real good comparatively. The Prius with little tires, tiny 4 cyl. and weaker handling just doesn’t cut it. Also what kind of real world mileage is it gonna get at 75 to 85 mph when it’s lil 4 is strung out at those speeds??

    In dense urban, go Prius, if you drive at all, go TDI SportWagen!!

  • sri

    It’s interesting how many people say prius can’t do this and prius can’t do that without actually being inside one or doing any research. I regularly drive one on highways for my business trips with speeds in the range of 65-80mph and still get upto 52mpg. I am by no means a hypermiler. The great thing about prius is it can maintain a the milage above 40mpg under nearly any driving condition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it outside city limits. Oh, and BTW, it is as spacious and as safe as many midsize cars.

    But all arguments aside, I don’t see why this should be a Jetta vs prius or diesel vs hybrid debate. Combined together they still only make up a small percentage of auto sales. The more high MPG cars on the road the better.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Maybe a better point to make here is: How many “average Joes” will be going out and buying a Honda Insight, a VW Jetta TDI, or a Toyota Prius? How many of those “average Joes” will be saving 30% more in oil usage rather than buy into the same old car or truck mileage? We applaud people that buy a 2010 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD over a regular 2010 Ford Escape 4WD, but that is no different than the Mercedes – they both decrease oil usage 30%. Then why did we not applaud the Mercedes purchase?

  • Dom

    Lost Prius to wife – you are spot on. Thank you. It’s not about hybrid vs. diesel and which is better. Both are a better solution compared to a regular gasoline only car.

  • Bill in France


  • (GP)Echo

    After an exhaustive comparison between many vehicles, my wife and I just placed an order on a 2010 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI. For those comparing the Prius to the Jetta TDI, remember that the cargo space between these two vehicles is not even close.

    We need space – a lot of it for our recreational and travelling requirements – and the Prius simply could not meet our needs. If Toyota offered a hybrid station wagon, we would have a contest here; however, when your primary purchasing constraints are fuel economy and cargo space, the TDI Sportwagen will win every time.

    I have no vested interest in diesel vs. gasoline, other than our desire to maximize fuel economy whenever possible. In this particular case, the diesel wins. The fact that it is clean(er) is a plus in my opinion. We already own one hybrid (2006 Honda Civic Hybrid), and we are eager to see the real differences between the two. I suspect the excitement of driving will be notably higher for the TDI. Most true hybrids (Prius, Civic, etc.) leave much to be desired in the satisfaction department.

    One last thought: any hope for hybrid diesels?

  • Gary

    I wish the story story authors here would get in the habit of providing both fuel economy (mpg) and CO2 emissions. Diesel fuel has more energy content and more carbon per gallon and this cause diesels to be relatively higher in CO2 emissions.

    Jetta Sportwagon 30/42 mpg and 6.2 tons CO2 per year
    Prius 51/48 mpg and 3.7 tons CO2 per year

    So, while the Prius is only 1.4 times better on fuel economy, its 1.7 times better on CO2 emissions.


  • Vic B

    Yeah, but it’s all about style, utility, dependability, performance and MPG! I’d never buy a Prius, but I’d definitely chance a JSW TDi!

  • Scott Cale

    Thanks for the link to the de-quacking(cracking). Maybe the concerned Scientists will read it.
    Diesels Rule!!!!!!!!!!

  • Scott Cale

    Thanks for the link to the de-quacking(cracking). Maybe the concerned Scientists will read it.
    Diesels Rule!!!!!!!!!!

  • simon@syd

    Its a bit late but…
    Here in Oz we’ve just started seeing the likes of the super clean diesel mazda…
    Now, in this article it mentions that every 20,000km you have to replace a A$140 vial of this magic urea stuff to keep Nox low – not as low as a gasoline or let alone a hybrid, but low.
    There you go – hidden costs afflict these clean diesels, and if the operator decides that they cant be bothered shelling out the cash – who suffers? whoever’s behind them!

    Admitedly mitigating this, Mazda has built in a feature to try to persuade the operator to comply.

    More info on this sort of thing is required.

  • TDI Owner

    When deciding on my purchase, total environmental impact was considered. I wanted a vehicle that required less fuel than my existing vehicles. Construction of hybrid vehicles requires more rare earth metals than required for conventional vehicles. The energy requirements for extraction of rare earth metals ores, and mining associated environmental impact and the human toll for materials to build a hybrid were deemed unacceptable to me relative to the modestly higher fuel use and carbon output of a diesel.

  • Patrick

    Regarding the discounting of diesel fuel creation efficiency, I don’t believe that is really fair. Both diesel and gasoline, as well as kerosene and other petroleum-based fuels, are all created using fractional distillation. Very few of the components come out of the fractional distillation column ready for market. Many of them must be chemically processed to make other fractions. For example, only 40% of distilled crude oil is gasoline; however, gasoline is one of the major products made and marketed by oil companies. Rather than continually distilling large quantities of crude oil to produce gasoline, oil companies chemically process some other fractions from the distillation column to make gasoline. This additional processing increases the yield of gasoline from each barrel of crude oil. So, through the miracle of modern petrochemical chemistry, the producers can turn diesel or kerosene into gasoline, which effectively results in more gasoline and less diesel per quantity of crude.

    I’ve driven an A4 Avant Quattro TDI in Europe and, in my experience, it gets about the same effective mileage as a FWD A4 or Golf Estate. All are great cars. I also drove an A8 with the 3 liter diesel. Fast and efficient.

  • Dave maddux

    I Love my Jetta TDI but good luck finding a VW dealer that is open on Saturday for service!

  • wally

    Is that my imagination, or did someone post a link from 2004? (Union of Concerned Scientists). The previous gen diesels did not meet Tier II Bin 5 standards. The current crop do.

    Aside from the 8 or so hybrids, most cars don’t address both climate change (high MPG) and smog (e.g. SULEVs and PZEVs). If you live in L.A. or Houston, pick the PZEV. If you live in San Luis Obispo or Nebraska and drive long distances, address climate change.

  • Craig

    New VW Sportwagen TDI owner. We kept our 2005 Dodge Caravan, 2.4 liter engine with shortbed vehicle, no options (not even power windows).

    I LOVE driving my 2010 VW Sportwagen! It’s just a fun car to drive with all that torque! However, to be totally honest, our old 2005 Caravan is like an old sofa — one sits more upright than in a Sportwagen — and having my kids 2 seat rows away is often a good thing! We’re keeping both cars for now.

    My first car in life was a used VW bug — there were exactly two unmarked controls on the dashboard — one for the headlights, one for the wipers. One commentator said that with European cars one often has to refer to the owners manual to change the radio station; that’s not far from the truth! —

  • patrick morrisson

    An article recently appeared in the October 2010 edition of Motor Trend comparing the new Honda CRZ and Golf TDI and the results are quite enlightening. The magazine also went on to compare the same Golf TDI this time with the 6 speed DSG transmission with a Toyota Prius. This time the results were closer and given that Motor Trend is an enthusiast magazine and all the factors were examined not just the fuel savings, I thought the article was balanced and fair.

    As many people have mentioned in the comments above; the deal breaker for me is space. I live in Canada and naturally my kids play hockey all year round so I need room for two hockey bags. The other factor is the amount of time I spend on the highway. I have had kids in hockey for 20 years now and have averaged about 50-70,000 km’s per year. ( about 30-40,000 miles per year)

    So for myself, it was a no brainer getting a Golf/Jetta TDI (Highline) wagon loaded with everything I could tick off in the boxes. In Canada, diesel is about 5-10 cents a litre cheaper than regular pump gas plus, aside from a hybrid car, the fuel economy is tremendous. Plus its clear that a Jetta will outperform a Prius on a long trip for comfort- good seats are really important for myself.

    I agree with many of the writers above that VW dealers and sales staff are arrogant and defensive when it comes to anything negative you might point out to them. Forget about negotiating a better price than list- I went the fleet car route and paid cost- here in Canada we get hosed with anything German made because of the exchange rate.

    Here is the link for the articles I was mentioning: Motortrend.com ( October 2010 edition) – the articles start on page 116 and end on page 130. Hope this helps.

  • Ukemike

    Wow, who you calling “second tier?” VW is the biggest auto manufacturer on the planet. I’m sure the US market is important to them but

  • LargoSlade

    My dealer is open Saturday’s from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. I am in Gilbert, AZ. I guess it depends on how large a city you live in for that type of convenience.