VW's 261-MPG XLI Could Come to the U.S.
NEW YORK CITY—The highlight of Volkswagen’s press conference at the New York International Auto Show Thursday was the introduction of the new Golf. The company’s fuel-economy champ XL1 wasn’t even on the company’s stand.
In February, I said the two-seat XL1 is “the best plug-in hybrid that Americans can’t buy.” It's largely aimed at Europe. But perhaps I spoke too soon. After the Golf was teed up, I approached Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, and asked him about the aerodynamic and ultra-lightweight (1,753 pounds) XL1, which is claimed to get as much as 261 mpg from its miniscule 800-cc TDI diesel engine and 27 horsepower electric motor.
“We’re only building 250 globally,” he said, “but we could bring in a few to the U.S., probably less than 20. We will make a decision on that soon.”
Would it be Legal?
Of course, there’s the question of whether the XL1 will be legal in the American market, given the need to meet crash standards and other regulations. Browning was upfront about not knowing if there are exceptions made for very limited production vehicles.
I don’t know, either, but I have reported on the Bill Gates exception. The Microsoft founder lobbied for and got permission during the Clinton Administration to bring his non-federalized Porsche 959 into the U.S. under the new “show and display” rules, which don’t allow for all that much driving.
Apparently, the exemption has also been used to bring in a bunch of non-certified European cars, from the McLaren F1 to the Jaguar XJ220. Of course, the XL1 isn’t the kind of prize you keep on a stand and never drive. What’s the point of a 261-mpg car that never hits the road?
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