LA Auto Show 2008: Diesel Rules

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November 24, 2008

By: G.R. Whale

Photos by: 353S

With a reputation for decent weather in November that delivered sunny mid-70s we half expected the Los Angeles Auto Show to be the place Audi showed us an official A5 cabrio, but ’twas not to be.

Audi’s show stand dropped Teutonic silver for bright white on the floors, overhead structures and most of the cars; across the aisle from a relatively dark but no smaller Chrysler display, Audi’s ship looked rather like the beacon atop the Luxor.

Seating was quite limited, with a good percentage of the chairs reserved for VW and Audi management who presumably had already seen the car since every Audi fan with a ‘net connection and everyone on the marathon route had already seen it. And while the actors who debuted the TT roadster at the same show a previous year were named, German actor/bodybuilder Ralf Moeller caused quite a commotion among only the German photographers attending and played no apparent part in the unveiling.

Maybe the white stage was chosen for its cleanliness, as the conference was all about clean diesel. So convertibles gave way to Los Angeles’ other primary attribute of wretched excess with every other driver needing an SUV for urban crawls. After a film about the TDI mileage marathon and with the usual flourish of “smoke” and pizzazz none other than Johan de Nysschen drove out a…wait for it…Q5 TDI in Audi Mileage Marathon livery to share the stage with the Q5 3.2 already there.

Pardon me while I drop another No-Doz.

A Q5 TDI? With the same 3.0-liter V-6 used in the Q7 and virtually every other derivative of the B8 platform, tuned as you wish. Where’s the A5 cabrio dammit? The R8 roadster? An A1 maybe?

Not here. Audi implied that pictures of the A5 cabrio will be released by early December-for those who haven’t Photoshopped their own, and very likely won’t have a formal debut. That leaves an R8 roadster, A1 or something else to appear in Detroit, alongside VW’s roadster debut pushed back from LA to Detroit. Really, I’ve nothing against Detroit but what’s with all the convertibles in the middle of freakin’ winter?

Out of his “debut” Q5 de Nysschen explained how America stands in its own way with diesel, with taxation policies (among others) that conspire to limit diesel sales, while our very own EPA points out that if we used diesel for roughly a third of our wheels, especially crossovers and SUV’s, we’d save exactly the same amount of oil imported daily from Saudi Arabia. Alas, I saw no one from the EPA there, nor CARB czar Mary Nichols rumored to be a top pick for the next EPA chief.

Next up, former Porsche guy Peter Schwarzenbauer goes on about Audi’s good sales year, on track to do a million vehicles in 2008 and set the 13th consecutive sales record in North America. After a film about the Q5, he notes that “2009 will be the breakthrough of TDI in the U.S.”

The Q5 should be in dealers this Spring, the A5 cabrio in European dealers and the Q7 TDI in American showrooms in the same time frame.

The Q5 TDI that made its “U.S. debut” at the Los Angeles show? At this point there are no plans for it here as Audi sees what kind of response the Q7 TDI gets. So it you want a diesel ute but don’t need seven seats, you better let Audi America know.

I need another pill.


  • Photo Gallery: LA Auto Show 2008
  • External Link: LA Auto Show
  • Previous Coverage: 2007, 2006 (November), 2006 (January), 2005

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