Last February, amid much hoopla, the port of Jacksonville stole away the Volkswagen import business from Brunswick. Roughly 100,000 VWs, Audis, Porsches and Bentleys each year were set to flow into Florida for distribution across the Southeast. Brunswick took a serious import hit.
Now, though, the sting of lost business doesn’t hurt as much given the reputation-shattering news that VW illegally rigged diesel vehicle emissions software to avoid sky-high pollution readings. About 11 million cars worldwide — 500,000 in the U.S. — are effected.
VW ordered that sales of 2015 diesel-engine vehicles, many imported into the U.S., be halted. This week, the German automaker said emissions shenanigans also effect certain 2016 models. They too won’t be sold until fixes are made.
Consequently, thousands of imported Beetles, Golfs and Jettas are under quarantine at U.S. ports, including Jacksonville.
The port has received 28,310 VWs this year, and 17,629 Audis, according to JaxPort officials. Diesels account for roughly one of every five VWs sold in this country.
The business didn’t come cheap. The port ponied up $17.7 million in tax breaks and facility upgrades. The state of Florida chipped in another $16 million in harbor and terminal improvements. Volkswagen, in return, promised 100 jobs.
“We are excited Volkswagen has chosen Florida to create new jobs,” Gov. Rick Scott said last February during a dockside news conference.
Gov. Scott couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. Nancy Rubin, spokeswoman for JaxPort, said VW’s troubles haven’t had any impact on the port.
“We are committed to a long term business relationship with Volkswagen of America,” she said.
About 84,000 fewer VWs, Audis and Bentleys disembarked at Brunswick the last fiscal year, according to the Georgia Ports Authority. After years of double-digit growth in auto imports and exports, Brunswick notched only a 1 percent gain in fiscal 2015.
Curtis Foltz, who runs Georgia’s ports, said he was “disappointed” with VW’s switch, but expects Brunswick — the nation’s second busiest auto port — to one day make up the difference.
“We are encouraged that the shift to Jacksonville was not due to service or market driven issues, but determined through financial incentives offered by others,” he said via email from Europe.