Winch to Hitch: Pin the Blame on Volkswagen

August 2019 Column Trevor Mason

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue.

By now, you’ve no doubt heard of what the media has been calling “Dieselgate.” In short, Volkswagen was caught cheating on their emissions testing and was slapped with a positively gargantuan settlement of $14.7 [billion]. Some of that money will be used to promote zero emissions vehicle technology and an environmental remediation trust, but the bulk of it will be spent on restitution and an option to buy the offending vehicles back or modify them.

“That’s great,” I hear you say. “But I’m a real man and don’t drive no stinking TDI or anything like that. What does this matter to me?” I’m glad you asked!

Our industry has been going through a ton of changes lately, some for good, some for ill. One of the biggest shake-ups has been the EPA’s crackdown on deleted vehicles. For those of you who don’t automatically know what that means, here’s a quick primer. A deleted truck is one that has had either the EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) system or the DPF (diesel particulate filter) removed or “deleted” from it. People like to delete these systems because they allow a truck to function more efficiently, but at the expense of, you know, the environment.

I think it’s safe to say that the whole Dieselgate thing carries a fair share of the blame in getting the EPA to start taking a more critical eye toward diesel trucks. After all, if these tiny little passenger cars are spitting out too much smoke, what about that gigantic 1-ton dually pulling a horse trailer up a mountain?

That’s not the only way Dieselgate has affected the rest of the industry. As of this writing, there is still a fairly large number of light- and medium-duty vehicles, like the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, for example, that haven’t been certified by the EPA for the 2017 model year. “But,” I hear you say again, “2017 already started. How could that be?” As ever, the explanation could just be chalked up to governmental red tape. But in this particular instance, there’s a little more to it than that.

Some dealers have taken the EPA’s foot-dragging to mean that those vehicles won’t be sold at all. In fact, we read a report on car enthusiast website Jalopnik.com from one such dealer that would be pretty upsetting if it weren’t entirely based on conjecture: “Unfortunately, I’ve come to the realization...that FCA Chrysler is not making the EcoDiesel available for any vehicles in ‘17... So that engine has been discontinued. I don’t know if it’s on a temporary basis, but I cannot even order one.” That sounds pretty dire, but if you do a little bit of digging and actually call Fiat Chrysler, they’ll tell you that “certification is pending.”

In addition, the website Automotive News did a report in October that showed that the EPA was taking extra time to ensure that every new diesel-equipped vehicle passed emissions, which is certainly due to Dieselgate. According to EPA spokesman Nick Conger, “It is true that diesel vehicles are getting extra scrutiny and that has extended the certification process longer than normal. In general, manufacturers have been supportive of this additional testing and have adjusted their timing to account for the additional test duration.”

So where does that leave you, the diesel-hungry consumer with money burning a hole in your pocket? With limited options, unfortunately. Not many 2017 diesel trucks are out there yet. We’ve personally had a hell of a time trying to find a Ram to test drive; I can’t imagine anyone else has had much better luck. Hopefully by the time you read this, things will have gotten sorted out. If not, you could always get a gasser. Hey, wait, where are you going?

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