In wake of VW diesel scandal, engine makers are trying to pull another fast one

Allen Schaeffer, executive director of an industry group called the Diesel Technology Forum, spoke at a gathering of automobile writers on Tuesday, claiming the Volkswagen cheating scandal represents only a "speed bump" in the future of the diesel engine. Below, one of the VW models involved in the continuing controversy. 
In February, U.S. sales of vehicles with diesel engines were less than a third of what they were a year earlier, Schaeffer told members of the International Motor Press Association at a lunch in Manhattan.


Diesel rhymes with evil.

Think climate change, global warming, polluted air, disease, death and premeditated deception.

That's deception of both regulators and customers, as in the massive Volkswagen cheating scandal involving 11 million VWs and Audis with diesel engines.

Deception as in Mercedes-Benz USA, which was named in a federal lawsuit alleging that its so-called clean diesel engine reduces pollution far less than the company said in its marketing materials -- in an echo of the Volkswagen scandal.

Mercedes' "clean diesel" emits pollution at levels more than 65 times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency permits, the lawsuit charges.

An Illinois woman who owns a Mercedes ML 350 filed the suit last month, and asked for class-action status to represent others in a similar fix.

'Speed bump'

So, automobile writers who gathered for a free lunch paid for by an industry group -- including engine makers and their suppliers -- might have been surprised to hear the VW scandal called a "speed bump," a "detour" and a "short-term issue" in the future of the diesel engine.

Allen Schaeffer of the Diesel Technology Forum seemed to contradict himself when he said only 6,500 vehicles with diesel engines were sold nationwide in February, compared to 22,000 a year earlier.

Schaeffer, the forum's executive director, also raised eyebrows when he claimed some "clean diesel" engines are just as clean as a Toyota Prius hybrid.

And he actually dismissed all-electric vehicles, including those with gasoline-fueled range extenders, in just a few words.

No sale at IMPA

Even though lunch was free, members of the International Motor Press Association turned out in the fewest numbers I've seen.

Still, the media have been complicit in the past success of diesel, as you can see from a rave review of the 2016 Range Rover with a 6-cylinder turbo-diesel motor in The New York Times.

Tesla Motors' all-electric Model X, called the safest SUV in the world, is ample demonstration that Land Rover is still producing some of the world's most environmentally irresponsible vehicles on earth.

Not good enough

Of course, a diesel engine that is just as clean as a gas-electric hybrid isn't good enough.

If diesel engines were banned outright, that might spur the development of alternatives far faster than now, when the profit motive seems to rule.

Diesel engines, which are less complicated and cheaper to produce than gasoline engines, fatten automakers' bottom line while helping them meet increasingly stringent fuel-economy standards.

But that has come at a terrible price to the environment.

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