Very few folks in North America will mourn the death of the diesel automobile. For some reason, diesels never caught on in America.
Volkswagen seemed to be the only car company to sell a significant number of diesels. Then it was caught cheating on emissions testing and got slapped with billions in fines. Several executives ended up in jail.
Just as VW seemed to be recovering, the company admitted to subjecting monkeys to diesel fumes in an attempt to show how harmless the fumes were. The scandal erupted all over again.
In spite of all this, VW has posted robust earnings, which shows how profitable car companies can be, even in bad times.
Meanwhile, some European governments have decided that diesels — as well as all gasoline engines — must go.
Those moves played out last week at the Geneva auto show. Lots of hybrids and full electrics were on display — without any strong indication that consumers are looking forward to a flood of electric vehicles. No one knows what the demand will be without government mandates. But based on existing sales, it would appear to be quite small.
Auto executives are starting to demand that governments install charging stations across Europe to service all these potential EVs in the future. It is remarkable how quickly auto manufacturers have toed the line and are investing precious resources in EVs, with little demand from customers. Last year, EVs accounted for a full percentage point of market share in Europe for the first time.
I can remember the battle the industry put up when governments mandated airbags. The auto industry lost, but not without fighting tooth and nail.
There is an interesting contradiction going on these days. Consumers are forsaking sedans for crossovers and SUVs. Meanwhile, we are seeing the debut of EVs and a new batch of supercars that all seem capable of topping 200 mph. VW, despite its scandal woes and investments in electrification, last week predicted a "renaissance" for diesels.
It is confusing to say the least.
The only ones appearing to know exactly what they want are European governments. France and the United Kingdom are set on outlawing internal combustion engines in passenger vehicles by 2040. But these nations haven't addressed the heavy-duty truck business, which shows no interest in abandoning diesel powerplants.
The auto industry is again in flux. It will be, as always, fascinating to see the outcome.