VW taps 'zealots' to promote diesels

The 2009 Jetta TDI is the first diesel-powered vehicle to meet emissions standards in all 50 states.
LOS ANGELES — Volkswagen Group of America is enlisting the help of "diesel zealots" to spread the word about its new Jetta TDI clean diesel.

The 2009 Jetta TDI, which went on sale in August, is the first diesel-powered vehicle to meet emissions standards in all 50 states. So the sedan has been the subject of much attention in Internet blogs and chat rooms over the past 18 months, said VW spokeswoman Jennifer Jacoby.

Jacoby said VW has been monitoring the chats and openly sharing information with diesel enthusiasts so they can spread the word on the merits of clean diesel.

"We are going to tap into them to be our advocates," she said at a media event here this month.

Engaging diesel enthusiasts is key to VW's two-stage campaign to build awareness about clean diesel technology and change perceptions about diesel among U.S. consumers.

VW recently launched a diesel section on its Web site that gives a history of VW's diesel heritage and tests consumers' knowledge of diesel technology today. More than 25,000 people have signed up through the Web site for more information on clean diesels and the Jetta sedan and SportWagen TDIs, Jacoby said.

Phase two will begin in the first quarter of 2009 and use the Jetta campaign as a "launching pad" for future clean diesel cars, she said.

"For most Americans, the term diesel brings up connotations of the 1970s smelly, dirty, loud diesel," she said. "We also need to establish that diesel is a viable option for anyone looking at alternative-fuel vehicles. Hybrid is not the only answer."

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