Whatever Volkswagen has done to get to the position of dominance in the European – and indeed the global auto industry, it's clearly been working. But some of its decisions still leave us scratching our heads. The Phaeton is one such four-wheeled decision.
A Volkswagen sedan that shares its platform with the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, the Phaeton offers the space, luxury and meticulous engineering standards you'd expect of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class or BMW 7 Series, in a package decidedly bereft of the badge cachet that goes with it. VW clearly spent big dollars developing the vehicle, so when sales never really materialized, we were hardly surprised that plans were floated to phase it out in favor of something a little more cost-effective for both buyer and manufacturer, closing the enormous canyon between the current Phaeton and the Passat and CC ranges that sit below it.
In fact, we've read reports for years now stating that VW will/will won't follow up the Phaeton with a new model – it's one of the most cyclical future product stories in the entire auto industry. This latest report from Motor Trend suggests that Volkswagen is planning to replace the current Phaeton in 2015 or 2016 with another model in the same mold, downsizing in neither price point nor scale – and bringing the new model back to the North American market in the process. MT suggests the Phaeton will be an technological wonder, going with smaller engines (no W12), forced induction power and available hybrid and plug-in models. Us? we wouldn't be surprised to see the Phaeton adopt the new twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 engine found in the 2013 Bentley Continental V8.
Apparently VW is keen to retain the buyers who have enjoyed their Phaetons thus far, giving them the conservatively styled, anti-prestige alternative to the luxury sedans built by its sister company Audi and its own retiring executives – including Group CEO Martin Winterkorn and his product chief Ulrich Hackeberg – something of a parting gift.