The take-up of diesel-powered models in the USA has surprised diesel market leader Volkswagen, according to Jonathan Browning, chief of the manufacturer’s American operation.

Volkswagen of America currently dominates the light-duty vehicle diesel market in the USA, holding a 72 per cent market share, which represents about 90,000 cars per year.

In the year up until the end of October, diesel vehicles represented 22 per cent of Volkswagen of America’s total sales, which far exceeded its expectations.

Key to that growth has been the introduction of the oilburning Passat TDI, which was the first diesel in the mid-size saloon market in the US.

“Our going-in assumption, because we were going to have to conquest a lot of customers from competitors, was that those customers would be very wedded to petrol powertrains,” said Browning.

“We thought the step to convert them to the Volkswagen brand was going to be a fairly substantial step in itself, and then it would be an even bigger step to convert to diesel. 

“In fact, because it is such a compelling offer – almost 800 miles range, and with the typical US driving profile, it is possible to get even better-than-published fuel economy with the diesel because there’s a lot of highway driving – customers are just raving about it.

“Our original forecast was for 17 per cent of Passat sales to be diesels, but in fact it is running closer to 30 per cent.

“The US consumer is definitely warming to the notion of diesels. It is an important part of who we are in the market place,” said Browning.