Once upon a time, diesel cars were making some headway in the race for fuel-efficiency supremacy and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI was the poster child for them. Back in 2007, fuel prices rose and automakers were churning out fuel-efficient models in order to capitalize on the public’s need for saving gas. In addition to the fuel-saving champion, the Toyota Prius, GM released the Yukon and Tahoe Hybrids in order to cater to the SUV crowd.
But Volkswagen made bigger headlines with its plan to reintroduce the Jetta TDI back into the market. Although, this time, it was marketed as a “clean diesel.”
The Volkswagen Jetta TDI was new and improved
The history of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI is somewhat confusing. As Autotrader once pointed out, 2005 was the start of a new generation, but it started in the middle of year, so if you were looking for a 2005, then you might come up with two different models. Confusion aside, though, the Jetta TDI was offered for the 2005 and 2006 model years, however, it was only offered in select states across the U.S.
The Jetta TDI was then discontinued for 2007 and 2008, but for 2009 it made a comeback as Volkswagen gave it a larger engine (2.0-liter versus 1.9) and made it even more fuel efficient as it was rated at 30 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway. Interestingly enough, Jetta TDI owners at the time reported getting 50 mpg after a 10,000-mile break in period, and on top of the fact that Volkswagen — as well as the automotive media – was hyping up the now 50-state-legal “clean diesel” nature of the new Jetta TDI, it was sure to be a winner.
And the “Green Car of the Year” award goes to…
If you have never heard of the “Green Car of the Year” award, then just know that it’s given out every year (since 2006) by the Green Car Journal. A panel of 11 jurors, which is comprised of automotive and environmental experts, decides on a deserving car every based on it’s environmentally friendliness. When the 2009 Volkswagen Jetta won the award at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, it came as somewhat of a surprise because it was the first time a diesel car had taken home the award.
Ron Cogan, editor for the Green Car Journal, told Reuters at the time, “This signals that clean diesels have arrived.” He was mainly referring to the fact that while diesel cars were popular in Europe, and they had a tarnished reputation in U.S. for being loud and smelly, the Volkswagen Jetta was basically the flag bearer for a new clean diesel movement. If he only knew what was actually to come.
Oops, never mind!
Just a short seven years after the Jetta TDI received the award, it was rescinded by the committee in 2015. As the “dieselgate” news broke around the world, the poor Jetta TDI had a different spotlight shown on it and it wasn’t good. The Audi A3 TDI won the award in 2010 and that one was taken back as well.
“These models were selected as Green Car of the Year above others for compelling reasons, including high fuel efficiency, reduced carbon emissions, a fun-to-drive nature, and the ability to meet 50 state emissions requirements with advanced diesel technology,” Cogan said. Also stating that it was “unfortunate but appropriate.”
Maybe Volkswagen will redeem itself someday
Ironically, just as the Jetta TDI was the first diesel car to win the award, it was also the first car in which the award was rescinded. But the rest is history, as Volkswagen moved away from making diesel cars and is now making a big push toward electric vehicles. Who knows, maybe Volkswagen can win the award again someday.