Local economist says Volkswagen image will be hurt, but fallout won't have huge impact in U.S.

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The company's CEO stepped down on Wednesday, American CEO says they "totally screwed up" (KFSN)

For many Volkswagen owners, it's more than a car, it's a lifestyle.

But since the company admitted to rigging diesel emissions to pass U.S. standards, the brand's public perception has taken a hit. It affects almost half a million cars in the U.S. and 11 million worldwide.

"It will have a damaging effect I'm sure on their image, here in the U.S.," said local economist and car expert Henry Nishimoto.

But Nishimoto says it will hurt much more in Europe, where diesel is more popular. He's believes American VW owners will stay loyal, but car buyers may rethink diesel.

"I think it will strengthen the market for hybrids to the extent that people were thinking about buying VW's it may shift that demand to the hybrids now," Nishimoto said.

Nishimoto says American car consumers are forgiving, so the long term damage won't be severe. The owner of Clovis Volkswagen did not want to speak on camera, but says they are waiting for the manufacturer to notify them of a recall or campaign to perform updates, at which point customers will be notified.

In the meantime, he says owners of diesel VW's are safe to drive their vehicle on the road.

"When I look at GM's problems and so forth, I don't get it," said Mike Riedelscheimer, owner of Siegfried's Motors in Fresno.

Riedelscheimer works on VW diesels on a regular basis, and says this scandal isn't about safety or performance, but about emissions. Meaning, the cars are not as green as you think.

"If that's your deal, then get rid of the car. But if you're looking at performance, and you're looking at mileage and just general safety, reliability, it's a great car," Riedelscheimer said.

VW's leader has stepped down, and the company now faces fines and is under multiple investigations. But in the Central Valley, the impacts still haven't been felt.

VW dealers hope to hang on to as many owners and potential buyers in the months to come.

The president of Deutschlanders VW Club of Fresno says the company needs to get back to the basics that gave them a great reputation. But he says they'll get through this-after all, that's the attitude of VW owners.
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