• Feb 4, 2008


The facelifted Volkswagen Phaeton - click to view in high resolution

"Mistake" is a word often used in association with the Volkswagen Phaeton. Some say it was a mistake to make it in the first place; some say that it was a further mistake to launch it in the American market. However, Volkswagen says it was a mistake to withdraw it from the US marketplace. This from the mouth of Stefan Jacoby, CEO of Volkswagen of America, echoing previous remarks from VW chief Martin Winterkorn.

Jacoby makes a tough argument, considering how poorly the Phaeton performed in the US. Introduced in late 2003, it sold just short of two thousand units in 2004, and in the two years after, it failed to sell more than a thousand before being pulled. Compare that to the Bentley Continental, which shares its underpinnings with the Phaeton, yet has been selling like six-figure pancakes despite yet costing two-three times as much. The conclusion was that, no matter how good the car, American consumers were not prepared to pay big bucks for a VW, and the gap in Volkswagen's sedan range stretching from a $39k fully-loaded Passat to the $64k base Phaeton was just too large. However several developments will reduce that gap: the Passat has gotten bigger, the higher-end Passat CC was introduced, the next Phaeton is anticipated to go down-market compared to the current model, and Volkswagen is also preparing another model to fit in between. A more cost-effective Phaeton could stand a better chance in the American market as the flagship in a range of luxury sedans than it did as an island floating off the shore of Volkswagen's core line-up.

[Source: Automotive News - Sub. Req.]



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  • 40 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      They need to work on bringing the Polo over and bringing back the excitement that has left the Passat line.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I'm sorry, but the failure of the Phaeton had nothing to do with the car itself. Yes, it's a bit of a porker but in ride comfort, refinement and reliability was at least the equal of its contemporaries.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Oddly, I just saw my first Phaeton on the road yesterday. It came up behind me and I thought it was just another Passat, but I saw the different tail lamps once it got in front of me.
      • 6 Years Ago
      * What I find dificult about this argument that Ams perception about VW therefore wont pay top dollar for one, yet they have no problem buying a Korean Luxury car such as the Genesis???

      I think americans judge products mostly on its merits, otherwise if it was an image issue only, Japanese cars never would have taken off in the first place > 40 years ago.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Everybody point and laugh at VW!!
      I've said this for years, their most expensive car should be the Passat, and this new Tiguan, and they should bring the Polo over. They should even axe the Toureg. The Phaeton's chassis is the chassis used for Bentley, so not all is lost. Who would seriously buy a Phaeton over an A8? VW, you are not Mercedes Benz.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Cars in this range are more profitable than those in the 15-30K range. That's why they care so much.
      • 6 Years Ago
      VW needs to remember that when people spend Phaeton money on a car, they want everyone else to know they spent that kind of money. A car with a VW badge that is mistaken for a Passat can't compete in that price class (in the US anyway).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Uh, jiggly ride? Even in Sport mode suspension it's far from jiggly (yes I've driven it in all settings), even with the optional 19" wheels. It can be interpreted as taut, but you're insane to use the word "jiggly." I guess VW caters to the "luxurious" crowd who can't differentiate otherwise.

      The only people this will appeal to are those rich yuppie-hardcore VW fans. A $43k Passat is bad enough, most will have the common sense to prefer an Audi A8 to a Phaeton. Then again common sense has never been a trait of VW owners, who put up with cantankerous electrical systems and shoddy interior durability.

      Just release the Polo and Polo GTI, which is probably the only appealing car from the company.
      • 6 Years Ago
      VW needs to take a look at a little company called Hyundai. They are bringing in a S-Class sized car for the price of a better Passat. I dont know what kind of math the VW execs are doing, but when a company like BMW outsells you month after month, its time to take a look at what you are selling and realize that you are the people's car company and should build cars accordingly. The Jetta fully loaded shouldnt cost more than 23k. I dont care how "fun to drive" the car is, but when a person has a choice between a base model 1/3-Series vs a Jetta/Passat, I wonder what they will pick. They should leave the "nicer" cars for Audi. and focus on main stream cars. At this point I wouldnt be surprised if we see a 50k Passat next year "that features abs"? WTF, who still says they "feature" ABS? Its not 1987 anymore. VW is just not connecting with thier prospective buyers. Im sorry but VW competes with Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, maybe a few others. Thats it. The US dosent need a Phaeton, no matter how great of a car it is. Its still a VW, it still shares the same dealer netwrok as the 15k Rabbit, just refering to the "sophistication" of the dealer service dept. You feel like you are at a child care when in the waiting room. VW should focus on trying to bring Lexus quality for a "what should be" a VW Price.
      • 6 Years Ago
      For the same price as the $30,000 200hp Jetta you could buy a V6 Camry or a Subaru Legacy GT. The Jetta doesn't seem like it is the best deal.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I drove one of these for a week. It's actually a very nice vehicle. It just needs a minor price cut to make it worthwhile. Say... a 60% price cut.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You know damn well if that had a Audi, BMW or Mercedes logo on the front Americans would have snapped up this great car.

      It's just to much for the Vw name plate and shows in the marketing VW still stuggles to understand the American market. They never marketed the Eurovan and never marketed this car...so it was doomed to fail.

      Plus back to my first comment, people buying $40K+ cars are stuck up for the most part. Although they may have grown up with a Vw in college they all really want a BMW or a Lexus. So until you rebage this as a Audi or Porsche it just won't go.

      Great car for a dumb market (USA)...

      People buying $60K cars don't care about the price of gas who cares if the W16 (joke) engine gets 3 miles to a gallon...

      Now where is that Space Up vehicle I want that is also doomed to fail or never show up on our shores...
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