DETROIT -- North American Volkswagen dealers next year will have fewer diesels to sell at a time when demand is growing.
Next year, Volkwagen AG will change its diesel systems from an old-style mechanical fuel injection system to a new high-pressure electronic version.
As a result, VW will have limited availability of Jetta and Touareg diesels during the changeover scheduled for the automaker's 2007 model year.
The diesel versions of the Golf, New Beetle and Passat will be out of VW's U.S. lineup for the 2007 model year and are scheduled to return in the first quarter of 2008, said VW spokesman Keith Price.
VW will build about 10,000 Jetta diesels for the United States between now and Dec. 31. They will be sold as 2006 models and probably will run out sometime next summer, said Price. Then VW will have just one diesel - the Touareg - in its lineup until January 2008.
Price estimated VW would import only about 1,500 Touareg diesels in 2007.
VW sells about 25,000 diesels a year in the United States.
Price said the Touareg diesel will not be available in California and four Northeastern states that have adopted California's strict emissions standards.
VW is one of a few automakers that still use a mechanical fuel injection system on its diesel engines. Most other automakers switched years ago to computer-controlled common-rail systems that make a diesel run smoother and quieter and produce less pollution.
The switchover will take almost a year because VW says it needs the time to ensure that its new system will meet stringent U.S. emissions regulations for new low-sulfur diesel fuel that will reach the United States this fall.
Price said VW's 607 U.S. dealers have not been notified of the company's plans to allocate the slim number of diesels.
Traditionally, about 10 percent of VW's U.S. sales have been diesels, but demand has been growing as gasoline prices hover near $3 a gallon.
Some of the company's most loyal buyers have been its diesel customers, Price said.
Because there are no other diesel-powered cars in VW's price segments, the company isn't worried about losing sales during the changeover.
"We will have a little bit of hiccup in the short term. But we have been the volume player all along," said Price.
"Is someone cross shopping a Jetta TDI against a Mercedes-Benz E-320 CDI that costs twice as much? I didn't think so."
You may e-mail Richard Truett at [email protected]