WOLFSBURG, Germany -- Volkswagen has delayed the relaunch of its V-10 diesel-powered Touareg SUV until September, when low-sulfur diesel fuel will be widely available. Without the low-sulfur fuel, VW executives say the Touareg diesel spews clouds of white smoke while running.
About 640 units of the 5.0-liter diesel set to go on sale in June have been put into storage, says Adrian Hallmark, executive vice president of Volkswagen of America.
The Touareg diesel was withdrawn from the market in 2005 because it didn't meet U.S. emissions standards. It has been re-engineered to comply, though it still won't conform with the tougher diesel rules that take effect on Jan. 1 in five states, including New York and California.
VW executives halted plans to launch the Touareg diesel this month because during tests the Touareg diesel discharged "an ugly white smoke that isn't harmful but is visually unattractive," Hallmark says.
"The smoke isn't dangerous," he says.
Hallmark says it is generated by the diesel's new particulate filter, which traps oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions.
In September, oil companies will be required to supply diesel fuel with 22 parts per million sulfur, down from today's 400 ppm. The limit will drop to 15 ppm on Oct. 15. Running on such fuel, the V-10 will no longer emit the white smoke, VW says. The company will put stickers on the vehicles to warn owners about the smoke should they fuel up at a pump still dispensing high-sulfur fuel.
This fall, VW will push sales of the Touareg diesel on both coasts -- mainly in California and New York, where the model can't be sold after Jan. 1. VW expects to sell 1,500 of the V-10 SUVs in 2006. Prices start at $59,690, including shipping.
In 2007, it will be sold only in 45 states. VW still hasn't figured out how to meet the requirements adopted in California, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine or the more stringent federal rules that begin in 2008, says Hallmark.
VW pulled the SUV off the market in 2005 after only one year of sales. VW spent a year reworking the emissions system and planned to begin shipping the vehicle to dealers this month -- before the puffs of white smoke appeared.
Hallmark says he had his own experience with a smoky Touareg diesel. He decided to take one on a road trip in May "because I was unsure when I heard about the fuel situation."
He says his concerns were quickly confirmed.
"I got into one of the early ones and thank God I did," Hallmark says. "I was stopped a light in the middle of a town with low wind conditions and everyone was looking at the car. I looked in the rear view mirror and all I saw was white.
"The smoke filled the street," he says. "The smoke is so bad it looks like a carbon fire. I drove off as quickly as I could through back streets."
You may e-mail Diana T. Kurylko at [email protected]