VW still set on Phaeton redux despite cost-cutting drive and losing $32k per car

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While critically well regarded, the Volkswagen Phaeton has proven to be a vehicle largely unloved by luxury buyers around the world. Despite this, it refuses to die. While VW's luxury sedan hasn't been sold in the US since 2006 due to low sales here, it has soldiered on in Europe with occasional updates. As the model's long lifespan has been winding down, VW has decided to keep pushing the Phaeton into a new generation, despite in-house alternatives like the Audi A8 and Bentley Continental Flying Spur.

The move might not make much business sense, but Volkswagen executives are determined to make the Phaeton work. According to market analysts speaking to Reuters, developing the next-gen luxury sedan on the MLB platform could cost as much as 650 million euros ($737 million), despite relying on the same underpinnings in the A8.

It's not like the Phaeton is leading the luxury sedan sales ranks, either. Reuters notes VW produced just 5,812 of them in 2013 (the most current year with data), and from 2002 to 2012, the automaker reportedly lost 28,000 euros ($32,000) on each example sold. Conversely, Mercedes-Benz sold 103,737 units of its new S-Class in 2014, an astonishing 82.2 percent jump over the previous year.

The decision to keep the Phaeton going doesn't seem to square with the VW brand's cost-cutting strategy. Boss Martin Winterkorn announced last year a plan to save 5 billion euros ($5.7 billion) annually in the coming years. That plan reportedly also includes killing off less profitable models.

Apparently, VW can't just rip off the band-aid and get rid of the Phaeton. Even some VW bosses seem somewhat perplexed at the sedan's business case. When Reuters asked the company's US boss Michael Horn about selling the Phaeton here, he said. "That's a dangerous question. It's an image bearer with no relevance for volume."

The next-gen Phaeton is scheduled to go on sale in Europe in 2017 or 2018, according to Reuters, which is about a year later than previous rumors. A US launch will reportedly follow in 2018 or 2019 with the plug-in hybrid and potentially even diesel versions on offer. A starting price around $70,000 is estimated.

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