The internet is abuzz with the possibility that the Volkswagen Phaeton might make a return to the United States – with a cheaper price point as well. Unfortunately, it’s a terrible idea. But not for the reason you might think.
At this point in the essay, other outlets would launch into a heartfelt soliloquy about the Phaeton’s technological brilliance, its lack of appreciation by the buying public and how a lower price point would tarnish its legacy as a Bentley Flying Spur built with the wrong badge.
None of that matters. Virtually nobody in America cared about the Phaeton, and fewer people bought one – save for our EIC pro tem, who has a great track record of buying rare, enthusiast vehicles that people praise online but consistently fail to purchase.
The big issue with this plan is that it is unbelievably nonsensical when looked at from a “business case” standpoint. The full-size car market is constantly contracting, with most nameplates – especially the Ford Taurus that VW cited as possible competition – seeing declining sales. Overall, the segment relies on fleet sales for about 50 percent of its volume – but given VW’s tactic of dumping Jettas and Passats in rental fleets, it might be possible to get a “Volkswagen Phaeton or similar” on your 2017 Disneyworld Vacation to Orlando.
Even more ironic is what’s taking sales away from full-size sedans. It’s crossovers, particularly the larger kind that VW doesn’t have, the kind that dealers are crying out for, the kind that VW cannot decide on where to build. For all its success in the rest of the world, Volkswagen seems constitutionally incapable of understanding the American market and its tastes. Some things can be chalked up to miscalculations. If the Phaeton arrives before a full-size crossover, it will be nothing less than unforgivable stupidity.