By on April 2, 2010

As you are reading this, worker bees in the employ of Volkswagen are putting the last touches on a revamped model of the venerable Phaeton, overtime be damned. When everything is in Ordnung and the Spaltmass (panel gap) is as tight as a vise, the Phaeton will be loaded on the next Lufthansa freighter, and – eat your heart out, Jack Baruth – it will be flown to Beijing. As China Daily has it, “Volkswagen AG is speeding up a face-lift of the $88,000 Phaeton sedan in time to unveil the model at the Beijing auto show and target China’s millionaires.” That’s $88K for the base model, boys.

Eight years after the Phaeton was launched in Germany with great fanfare, and four years after it was pulled from the US market due to being a resounding sales flop, the Phaeton will finally get a face-lift. “Usually, one would expect a whole new generation after eight years in production,” grouches Germany’s Focus Magazine. Nothing doing. Nobody will spend the €670m the car cost in 2002 development money again. (And that’s not counting the silly “Gläserne Manufaktur” in Dresden, where the car is hand-made right in front of your eyes.)

Undergoing cosmetic surgery, the Phaeton will get a nose-job and a fanny-tuck. Or rather “new front and rear sections, an interior upgrade and a wider selection of engines for the car,” as China Daily was told anonymously.

Apropos of the motor strategy, Focus Magazine has a less glamorous version: The Phaeton’s brutish W12 cylinder 48 valve aluminium-silicon alloy engine will bite the dust. That triumph of the mill will make room for more parsimonious “V8 gasoline and diesel engines. A hybrid will follow later.”

Still interested, Jack? I thought not.

Originally, the launch of the phlebotomized Phaeton was planned for an autumn release, but a look at the sales charts made Wolfsburg rush the car to China.

China is a land of Phaetonphiles.

Out of 4,500 Phaetons sold worldwide last year, 1,400 went to China, a rise of 40 percent. Volkswagen aims to increase that figure to at least 2,000 vehicles this year, a 43 percent gain. This would make China the model’s biggest market, China Daily’s sources say. So where else to premiere the Phaeton’s new physique than at the upcoming Beijing Auto Show, in the last week of April.

About 825,000 Chinese citizens had a net worth of 10 million yuan ($1.5m) or more last year, the Hurun Report, China’s answer to Forbes, said in April 2009. China’s millionaires are a youthful bunch. On average, they are 39 years old. That’s when Germans buy their first new Polo. “Hurrah!” shouted the Marketing Dept. of Volkswagen, at long last, a young and affluent target group was found. All eyes are on China, and on future Phaetons parked in front of discos called Vics or Babyface.”

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13 Comments on “The Phaeton Rises From The Ashes – In Beijing...”

  • avatar
    Brian E

    A new generation is not needed. The W12 engine is a glorious excess but also likewise not needed.

    Is VW still serious about bringing the Phaeton back to the US? If so, the best option would be to use the supercharged V6 from the S4/A6 as a base engine. I doubt they will consider it though.

  • avatar

    Chinese love shiny “red” hue wood in their cars, and lots of it. The Phaeton ought to be a winner. For the upscale family, both the B5 Passat and B6 (Magotan) can always fill the bill. China is VW heaven.

  • avatar

    Stick a Bentley badge on it, triple the price and they will go flying off the dealer lots. Well, at least it worked here in the US.


  • avatar

    I never was a badge snob about the Phaeton. As long as the quailty of the materials and the construction match the price, so be it. Sadly I’m not someone with enough dinero to purchase a Phaeton.

  • avatar

    Not too sure about “Phaeton Rising from the Ashes”. The image suggests to me that VW is trying more for a “Phaeton of the Opera’ spin this time around.

  • avatar

    I considered a used Phaeton when I was looking for a car last fall – you could get them with pretty low miles for about 14k. But they seemed to only have the V8s, and I figured that if I was going to drive something that wouldn’t fit in my carport, it should at least have a V12 in it.

    • 0 avatar

      If you do, stock up on spare parts (especially interior, body and trim). I heard that VW sold less than 400 units in the US. Can anyone confirm?


    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The last thing I would want to own would be one of the few hundred US market now-out-of-warranty VW W12 engines. I would be living in fear that the next time the Check Engine light came on I would be out $5k.

    • 0 avatar

      @ TwoTone wellllllllllllllllllllll according to Wikipedia (I know, I know) the production sent to the US in 2004 was 1,433 and the 2005 total was 820. I guess if you wanted to collect one it would be more rare than most Bentley’s and Rolls Royce’s.

    • 0 avatar

      A used Phaeton for 14k is about 7k too much. John Horner is right – you have to subtract the cost of your first “check engine” light.

  • avatar

    (edit function seems to have disappeared) For what it’s worth, there are 11 for sale on eBay and 62 on Auto Trader. Most are W8s though.

  • avatar

    «Usually, one would expect a whole new generation after eight years in production»

    The Phaeton was a very advanced car when in debuted in Europe in 2003. Since the design of its electronics is highly modular, VW has kept adding on the goodies and new Phaetons are available with the latest goodies, many of which remain unavailable on most new cars. Hardware bits such as 18-inch carbon fiber-reinforced Silicon Carbide (C/SiC) ceramic composite brakes are also available.

    The bits that are genuinely obsolete are the 5-speed transmission on the W12s and the 6-speed trannies on everything else. The cost of reengineering the motive side is probably what led VAG to drop the 12-pot.

    Oh, and the fact that W12s only ever made a tiny slice of Euro and US versions, and that by far most Chinese versions are V6s that were never even available stateside.

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