Having failed to learn from previous mistakes, Volkswagen is inexplicably bringing the Phaeton back to North America, despite being totally contradictory to their push downmarket to appeal to mainstream American car shoppers.
The Phaeton could return as soon as January, with an unveiling at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. According to Martin Winterkorn, the Phaeton is essential to Volkswagen’s plans for America.
“A brand as large as Volkswagen needs a halo project in the upscale segment…We’ve seen what happens to brands that don’t have that kind of project.”
A few things seem more pressing right now than re-introducing an expensive luxury sedan wearing a VW badge. For one, introducing a mid-size crossover (or two) should be a priority for VW, given its importance in the American marketplace. Figuring out where it will be made (along with the associated labor issues) is also a more pressing matter than the new Phaeton.
It’s also hard to reconcile how a premium sedan will fit with Volkswagen’s Americanized lineup of sub-$15k Jettas and Camry-fighting Passats. These products are being sold on the promise of value-for-money and other attributes Americans typically value. But other products, like the Passat CC, Touraeg and even to an extent, the Golf, are holdouts of the more “European” Volkswagen, featuring nicer interior materials, bolder styling and in some cases, higher price points. Despite attempting to re-jig their lineup towards the value end of the spectrum, VW still doesn’t seem to know what direction it wants to go in and sales are starting to reflect that. Inventories are high, incentives are abundant and its gotten to the point where layoffs are occurring at Chattanooga because of the slow paces of sales. Introducing the Phaeton will pull it increasingly in one direction. Whether it’s the right one is up for debate.