Devastating news for Volkswagen diesel fans broke earlier today that the company was reportedly cheating on its Environmental Protection Agency smog tests of nearly 500,000 cars. But they’ve been touting their supposedly “clean” diesel tech for awhile. So why and when did they delete all their diesel ads from YouTube?

You’ve probably seen Volkswagen’s diesel ads before, as the company tries to push the long-spurned fuel technology in the United States. One series of ads, titled “Diesel Old Wives’ Tales,” purported to dismiss common myths about diesel engines. They prominently featured Volkswagen Global Rally Cross driver and Top Gear USA host Tanner Foust driving around ladies of a certain age, while they all argued (and learned) about the merits of diesel-fueled engines.

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Not only were they not sluggish and not loud, but they didn’t smell bad, and they certainly weren’t “dirty.”

Here are some of the ads, which live on through mirrors and dealership websites but have been deleted from the official VW USA YouTube account.

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In case the video isn’t loading, to prove the “cleanliness” of the Volkswagen diesel engine, one of the women holds her pristine white scarf right up to the tailpipe of her Volkswagen Golf TDI. Since this is a VW ad, it of course remains pristine. And at the end, we get the tagline:

“Like really clean diesel.” But maybe these things were supposed to be relative, in light of recent events.

The ads were a pretty big campaign from Volkswagen USA, and accordingly weren’t just covered by business magazines like AdAge and Fast Company, but were even touted by automotive publications like Car And Driver, which touted them as “hilarious,” while noting their “excellent viral mileage.”

But for all the praise and publicity the ads generated, Volkswagen USA seems to be trying to now scrub them from the Internet. A quick check of Volkswagen USA’s YouTube page shows a record of the ads being there, but now all that’s returned is a big “Deleted Video” sign.

The video was removed at Volkswagen’s behest, according to YouTube.

A further search of Volkswagen USA’s YouTube page shows that not only was the “Diesel Old Wives’ Tales” series completely removed, but a large number of other videos concerning diesels appears to have been removed as well. Its “TV Commercials” playlist now not only features missing gaps where videos were deleted, but also where videos have been set to private by the company:

We’re still unsure what exactly those videos were that VW deleted and set to private, but what we do know is that a search of the company’s YouTube page now returns almost nothing concerning diesels. Ghosts of the videos remain, however, with playlists featuring deleted videos now showing up in results for diesels.

But it’s not like Volkswagen didn’t make advertisements at all for supposedly “clean” diesels, and copies of the ads are still floating around on non-Volkswagen accounts.

The obvious implication is that Volkswagen’s been scrubbing all of its promotional work for its diesel technology in the wake of its use of defeat devices for EPA smog tests. But the truth of the matter is we don’t quite know when Volkswagen actually scrubbed these ads from YouTube, and we don’t know for sure why they removed the ads.

All we know is that at some point Volkswagen wanted everyone to know about their diesels, and now they’re not quite so gung-ho on it.

A Volkswagen spokesperson only said that they’re looking into it, and don’t have an answer at this time.

UPDATE: As noted elsewhere, an earlier version of this story, based on incorrect news reports, said VW was ordered to recall the cars. That is not true, at least not yet. Via Automotive News:

Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air & Radiation, said that the agency will “hold VW responsible” for recalling the affected vehicles to reduce the excess emissions, but said no recall order was issued as part of today’s announcement.

No fines or recalls have been ordered but the investigation continues.

AN reports the EPA discovered the issue after an independent analysis and extensive lab testing. Indeed, the cheat device was present on all VW diesels, not just the ones used for EPA testing. When it is not working, the cars emit 40 times more than the allowable levels of emissions.


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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