By on May 20, 2014

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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.

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149 Comments on “Editorial: Volkswagen’s Plan For A Cheaper Phaeton Is Another Disaster In The Making...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Ford Taurus that VW cited as possible competition”

    What cruel joke is this, where they’d price a new Phaeton to be competing with the [aged, cramped] Taurus? That’s not even luxury – and a Phaeton is supposed to be luxury. It would be a stretch to build a proper Phaeton in the same range as the MKS.

    I don’t think it would tarnish it’s legacy, because it doesn’t have one with VW to begin with. But the word phaeton goes way back, and shouldn’t be slapped on a Taurus competitor.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Indeed. If VW uses Taurus as the benchmark, they already lost. They could look at least at Maxima or say Genesis. In fact, CC already covers Maxima-range, so the new Phaeton would have to aim higher.

      Personally, I always believed that there is room for a full-size luxury VW if they adopted the Lexus way. The original Lexus LS gave 85% of car for 60-70% of price. The mistake VW made with Phaeton is that Phaeton tried to give 95-100% of an Audi A8 for a similar price.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        That’s right RE: A8. At that price point, the 5-7% difference in purchase price simply does not matter. So get the four rings and the (inevitably) better resale value.

        I might also do a total redesign for the CC before bothering with a new Phaeton – as people actually buy the CC and it’s very old now.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The original Lexus LS400 gave 105% of the car for 60% of the price. Only the 750iL BMW seemed like it was even meant to compete. Mercedes-Benz was still selling W126s with engines that could have been built in the ’50s. The LS400 was a bit smaller, but it was so far ahead in terms of luxury, quality, technology, and performance that it destroyed the Mercedes-Benz development model. Mercedes has been a marketing company ever since. The economic conditions that created Lexus are long gone, and their cars aren’t leading the gadget wars any longer, but their initial success was because nobody could find a way of credibly claiming that there was another luxury car that was better in any material way.

        • 0 avatar
          imag

          Absolutely true on the original LS, but I would say that Mercedes and the other Germans have gotten their act together since then.

          They may not focus on reliability as much as Lexus does, but the buyers in that segment aren’t generally owning cars for more than five years anyway. I would say MB is are actually doing a better job of building cars for the segment – bells, whistles, and all.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Highly doubt that a new Phaeton would compete against the Taurus, much less the 300C.

      More than likely, any new Phaeton would be more realistically priced this time around and be priced more in line with the Equus or K900 or maybe the new Genesis depending on whether the Phaeton remains full-size or moves down a notch and become a midsize (likely one of the larger ones).

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        I parked next to a new Taurus that someone was running errands in the other day. The window sticker on a refrigerator white future rental car with bland wheels that looked like wheel covers was almost $42K with package discounts.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          That makes no sense, as it’s into MKS money.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t seen it either. It was not an SHO. A quick look at Ford’s website shows the SELs in my area are between $37k and 39K. The one I saw was definitely about $41,800. The base price is in the 27K range, but every one on a dealer lot has at least $8,800 in options.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            It makes some sense. You can load a Limited up to $41K, easy. Plus the 19″ Limited wheels look terrible. I defend some less loved Ford products around these parts, but they should just replace the “Limited” badge on the Taurus with “Rental” or “Cheap Lease”.

            I hope no one is actually paying $41K for a Taurus. Even the SHO can be had for under $40K out the door. Last time I asked about SHO lease prices, they were around $350 with no down payment. The SEL leases for less than $300 a lot of the time.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Those SHO flower petal wheels look awful too. They should not have been designed!

  • avatar
    calmaro

    The words ‘Cheaper’ and ‘Phaeton’ do not go together…

  • avatar
    Hummer

    You know I really want to write a reasonable response giving my opinion on why fullsize cars are performing poorly. But then, out of nowhere, CUV, I can’t ration the unrational.
    So lets go a different route…
    Fullsize cars don’t tend to be at the center of automotive attention, and people that buy them new are a little more in tune with the automotive world, and thus spells to complete lack of interest in a VW product. CUVs however.. Totally opposite, make it look cutesy either beetle style or VW van style and you have thousands of young women that think its the best thing since sliced bread.

    • 0 avatar

      In sales I hear the following:
      I like to sit up higher
      I feel safer
      That gets really good mileage, for an SUV
      and more often then you might have expected… My dogs ride in the back

      • 0 avatar
        cdnsfan27

        Isn’t that the truth…I hear it all the time too.

      • 0 avatar
        baggins

        Frantz

        Thanks for coming on the site and commenting. Always like to hear from someone who talks to car buyers every day. Most of us commenters only know what we think.

        • 0 avatar
          zamoti

          I have never understood why people drag their dogs to the grocery store and on short trips. Why? So the dog can sit in the car, stinking it up with Alpo farts and drooling all over the inside? Then you have to leave a window down so Fido doesn’t have a stroke. Now you have to leave your car quasi-unlocked/open to maurading theives who could steal–YOUR PRECIOUS DOG! I know everyone thinks that their dog would not be taken or let someone in your car, but I’ll bet a handful of milkbones would change 90% of canine minds.
          Like your dog has errands to run. Your dog need to drop off some overdue books at the library, pick up the dry cleaning, sniff a butt, get his glasses fixed, and pick up some begonias at the nursery. I’ll bet.
          Wait, what was I talking about? Where are my pills?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            Don’t take the pills just yet. You’ve got a couple more paragraphs to go.

            The “my dogs ride in the back” line is code for “having kids is too much trouble”, but they take the dogs with them because they’re the kids.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        That’s the bummer with no wagons around. Dogs don’t go well in sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      Rod Panhard

      I’d agree with you, Hummer, but only if you make it “organic reduced-carb gluten free sliced bread.”

  • avatar

    And to think, I’d actually spend $60,000 on a K900 before I’d spend $40,000 (or more) on one of these.

    Kia/Hyundai are proof that if you have CONVICTION and FAITH in your product, you can create a market that wants to buy what you sell.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      “Kia/Hyundai are proof that if you have CONVICTION and FAITH in your product, you can create a market that wants to buy what you sell.”

      I agree, but at $60K, you’ve missed all of the people who are looking for the bargain. The $60K punter will probably spend his money on a mid-range 528i (yeah, they cost *that* much), and not on the K900…as nice as the K900 is.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Except, the K900 is a full-size so relative to the 7 Series – it is a bargain.

        That’s the whole point of Hyundai/Kia’s luxury pricing – a full-size for the price of a midsize and for the Genesis, a midsize for the price of a compact.

        Eschewing the cost of a luxury brand enables them to do this (and besides, it’s not like they can charge for what they don’t offer).

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          What will be worth more used, a 7 series or a K900000?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          “Except, the K900 is a full-size so relative to the 7 Series – it is a bargain.”

          That’s exactly my point. The K900 *is* a bargain. But people with money often tend to be badge-snobs, and the 528i—or even a 335i—will hold more prestige than the K900 among the money crowd, despite the K900 being a 7-Series competitor.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            The majority are badge-snobs but enough aren’t, which is what made the original LS400 a sales hit.

            There have already been 7 Series/S Class traded in for the new 5.0 Genesis Ultimate, which is a class segment down.

            The Equus/K900 5.0 combo outsold the XJ and A8 last month, so there seem to be a decent no. of buyers.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “There have already been 7 Series/S Class traded in for the new 5.0 Genesis Ultimate, which is a class segment down.”

            There have also been Bentleys traded for a Volvo XC90 at some point. Is this relevant?

    • 0 avatar
      mu_redskin

      I agree and would add CONVICTION and FAITH and MARKETING. They need consistently market their cars. Take the current EOS for example, they just refreshed it, and the Chrysler 200 convertible has been dropped. Though it is a declining market for convertibles, I would think with some strategic ad buys, they might be able to own the market.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    I love how everyone points to the Taurus as an example of how “large” cars don’t work. Despite its merits, the car basically sucks at being a large pseudo-luxury car, which is why its so fleet heavy. Charger and 300 have grown since 2009, and Epsilon II Lacrosse remained steady since introduction per the cited chart. Nissan may drop Maxima and Hyundai its Azera, but Toyota will continue with Avalon, GM will continue to run its Epsilon II platform for some time and Chrysler it’s LX. I wouldn’t count out so called “large cars” until at least 2020, VAG on this point may not be totally in the wrong.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      I think the core issue with the Taurus can be pared down to “It sucks at being a large car”.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Of that list, if I had to pick the two cars not to buy, they’d be Taurus and then the Lacrosse. The base 2.4 engine on the Buick is inexcusable. Third from bottom is Maxima, which would be OK if it weren’t so old.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I was at a Buick dealer in early 2013, he said the 3.6 had become the standard engine in Lacrosse. How true this is I can’t be sure.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          The Lacrosse should never have been available with anything but the premium V6.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Before stating that about the 2.4, I checked the (lousy) build feature at Buick.com to make sure it was still available, and the I4 was right there (touting 36 hwy MPG) – unfortunately.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            V4? Thought it was an inline.

          • 0 avatar
            APaGttH

            I4 – I4 – not V4.

            You can build one – and yes you can find them on a lot – but most out in the wild have the 3.6 – I had a rental with the 3.6 under the hood – I was shocked at how nice it was.

            The Taurus – yikes – awful – awful – awful. Remains at the top of the list of the worst rental car I ever had (and yes, I mean the current Taurus, not the three gen ago pre-Ford Five Hundred Taurus)

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Corrected.

            I feel like (without looking) it’s probably actually-or-related to a Saab engine.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            The 2.4L is GMs Ecotec family, and is the same as in any contemporary GM.

            Its a fine engine when not saddled to something as big as the Lacrosse. Its the base engine in the Verano.

            From wiki “The GM Family II engine is a family of inline-4 cylinder all-aluminum engines displacing between 2.0 L and 2.5 L. While these engines were based on the Opel Family II engine, the architecture was substantially re-engineered in 2000. This engine family replaced the Opel Family II engine, the GM 122 engine and the GM Quad 4 engine.”

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            In all honesty the 2.4 eAssist is better than the 3.0L V6 boat anchor that the Epsilon Lacrosse was first saddled with.

        • 0 avatar
          kjb911

          2.4 w/ eassist is the standard engine, however the V6 is a no cost option available on every trim and since most people want the 3.6 you would be hard pressed to find more than a few 2.4. At chevy its the exact opposite 3.6 is its own trim level with a high cost and a majority of our stock is the 2.5 which is a surprisingly good engine in the car

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “At chevy its the exact opposite 3.6 is its own trim level with a high cost”

            That’s about right for GM/Chevrolet, the engine you should just standardize on is only in the top trim.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            I recently had a chance to drive a 2.4 eAssist Malibu.

            I honestly found it just fine to drive, able to get out of its own way and the economy was pretty good. (8.5 L/100 kms city)

            Really the biggest issue with that engine is that the slight power/economy benefit absolutely do not offset the loss of trunk space and pass through, which are staples of a midsize sedan.

            @28
            “That’s about right for GM/Chevrolet, the engine you should just standardize on is only in the top trim.”

            Could you have imagined a 2.4 Twin Cam LeSabre or 88!?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @dave

            “Could you have imagined a 2.4 Twin Cam LeSabre or 88!?”

            I could not, as that would be blasphemous.

            My point of course is GM due to its branding always reserved the “good stuff” for the higher marques and either did not make it available in Chevrolet or made you pay through the nose for it. “New” GM is foolish to continue this mindset post bailout. The Impala and Lacrosse are the same platform, hell they are even the same type of car (semi-premium). So if I like the look of Impala but don’t want to pony up 4K for extra junk I have to shop my local BPG dealer and get into IMO an uglier car? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Cheaper and easier to just standardize on one motor for the entire platform.

          • 0 avatar
            kjb911

            Impala Lineup

            LS – 2.5L
            Eco LS – 2.4 w/ start stop
            1LT – 2.5
            1LT Eco-2.4 w/ start stop
            2LT- 3.6
            1LTZ – 2.5
            2LTZ – 3.6

            what I find weird is that the Malibu is standard with stop start but the impala requires the 2.4

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            @ Dave The e-assist Malibu I drove had so much throttle lag that I couldn’t get it to shift weight in any predictable way. Since the drive and ride was set up as a slow autocross it really hurt my impression of the car. I guess it’s possible that the level of isolation and bushing play the GM’s I’ve driven have is an asset on sufficiently frost damaged roads, but … Not for me.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            05lgt,

            Oh, the 6 speed slush box and throttle calibration definitely left something to be desired, as I find most modern autos do. But, just driving around town, I am guessing my impression was better than the situation you describe, and I found the engine to be fine.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            @28-Cars-Later:

            Well the 2.4L twin cam was the final Oldsmobile engine, so I would have been okay with it being offered in the 88.

            The Twin Cam 2001 Alero was the last Olds powered Oldsmobile.

    • 0 avatar

      28Carslater

      The TAURUS sucks at being a “large car”.
      The technology packages are decent.
      The powertrain – including the SHO – is good enough for city folk

      BUT…

      #1 The interior of the front seats is bunkerized and uncomfortable
      #2 The rear seats DON’T fold flat like they do in the 300/Charger
      #3 The trunk space is good, but the entry is high on the Taurus/MKS
      #4 The steering wheel doesn’t telescope enough.

      The Taurus feels like a big car built onto a smaller car’s platform, just like Buick Lacrosse did – only the Lacrosse made better use of the space.

      MY BIGGEST PROBLEM is when I get into a “large car” and my knees are against the console – and even when I recline, the steering wheel can’t tilt UP and OUT enough.

      And that’s why Lincoln/Ford will never see a dime of my money.

      The 300 is lower and flatter.

      My uncle – who has a 2013 MKS Ecoboost remarks on “how low” my car is, every time he gets into it. I’m CRAMPED in his MKS. My car is nothing but space.

      • 0 avatar
        fredtal

        Talked to my cubicle neighbor who just bought a Taurus, previous 500 owner, he agrees with your points about the car, except #1, the seats are comfortable. We have no idea what you mean my “bunkerized.” I rode in it and found it pretty nice.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          They feel that way because BTSR is 6’7″ and 450#! Or something.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          All of the Fords on that D3/D4 platform feel like tanks. They have high belt-lines, and it seems like there is a foot and a half of metal between you and the outside of the car. And while that kind of enclosed, vaulted feeling makes a lot of consumers feel safer, I think Ford overdid it…especially when the Fusion and MKZ seem to have more *usable* interior volume than the Taurus and MKS. So I’ll agree with the statement that they are “bunkerized”.

          The sad thing is that the Taurus really ain’t a *bad* car, like the others were. It’s got modern technology, decent styling, solid mechanicals, decent power. It’s just that (as has been the case since the discontinuation of the original and very-successful iteration) the Taurus amounts to no more than the sum of its parts. And even though those parts are significantly nicer this time around, other cars in this class (Avalon, Azera, Cadenza, Impala, 300, Accord Touring) do it far better. Ultimately, the Taurus really doesn’t justify itself against its highly-competitive younger brother, the Fusion.

          The *good* thing about the Taurus, though, is that it makes quite a good value as a used car. Even examples of the 2013 (first year for facelifted version) can be had quite cheaply for someone looking for a nicely-equipped, reliable vehicle. Why, you can actually pay the same for a 2013 Taurus Limited with reasonable mileage that you would for a 2014 Fusion S.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Agreed.

            Ford is going to rectify that interior room issue with the next Taurus, but it can’t get here soon enough.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            My understanding is that when the current Taurus was developed, there were 3 teams working on the car – one each for the exterior, the platform, and the interior – and they never talked to each other. So the exterior team developed the slab-sized look, the interior team developed the “personal luxury” concept with the big intrusive console since most full-size buyers don’t actually carry 5 people anymore, and the platform team developed a floorplan that didn’t match either one. Then their bosses stepped in and demanded the car be upgraded to a 5-star crash rating for marketing reasons, and they had to make the thing into the not-especially-spacious, outward-visibility-free bunker it became. Tragic really, because the car acquits itself pretty well behaviorally on a test drive.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        You are right that the MKS and Taurus are cramped. At 6’4″, I am more comfortable in the Fusion/MKZ. Somehow, I am more than comfortable in the MKT/Flex/Explorer, that all sort of share a platform with the MKS/Taurus.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The Taurus doesn’t move metal because Ford has barely changed anything in five years. In is essentially the same car from the 2008 model, with changes in 2010 that probably made the car worse. Ford, by in large, does not care. Don’t be suprised to see the Taurus gone in 2016. Ford will just try to move another Edge/Fusion/Explorer unit.

      • 0 avatar
        MPAVictoria

        “with changes in 2010 that probably made the car worse”

        Oh those changes definitely made it worse. The 2008 and 2009 Taurus are great cars. Plentiful power, lots of space and great visibility. The redesign ruined 2 out of 3 of those.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          Agreed. The interior materials are more pleasing to me, but its still a worse place to sit than the 08-09. My wife an I looked at an 2009 Sable when we bought our MKT recently. If she wouldn’t have vetoed that purchase, we’d have one in the driveway. If our daughter was 18 instead of 18 months, that’s what she’s be driving.

          • 0 avatar
            MPAVictoria

            “If our daughter was 18 instead of 18 months, that’s what she’s be driving.”

            Totally agree, a 2008 or 2009 Taurus would make a fantastic car for a young driver. In fact I would have bought a used 2008 if the incentives on Pontiac G8s hadn’t been crazy at the time.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            The ’08-”09 Taurus/Sable (as well as, of course, the current Taurus) is quite a safe and durable vehicle. A family friend of mine got in a *bad* accident in her ’08 Taurus Limited, and escaped without a scratch, as did her 2-year-old daughter that was in the car with her. Now she has a 2012 Taurus SEL.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            One odd flaw the ’08-09 and the current one have in common is a hard console that intrudes obnoxiously on my right leg, although the new one’s is worse. For me it was a deal breaker in both.

            A whole lot of recent cars share this problem, including large ones — the Impala/LaCrosse are notable offenders as well. I don’t understand this. Why pay for more size only to get squeezed every minute you drive the thing? What are the makers thinking?

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I would think the Phaeton would have problems with people who might buy this car and later slap themselves in the forehead declaring that they could have had a A8

  • avatar
    ciscokidinsf

    Chillax everyone. As a (former) Phaeton owner I can tell you its that time of the year again, when VW has nothing better to do than to start ‘Phaeton is coming back to the US’ rumours that never happen- I could link articles from 2006 (last year of Phaeton in US) to now. Every year, the seasons change, IRS taxes you and VW announces we are still thinking Phaeton. The leftovers of a music group called ‘GnR’ released ‘Chinese Democracy’ already, and the Phaeton is not back yet. It’s like saying ‘The South will rise again’ . And now the clever VW executives are calling the Phaeton to compete with Taurii and Impalas. Gimme a break. Better yet, gimme a 2015 GTI and shut up about the Phaeton coming back to the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Glenn Mercer

      I tend to agree. “Phaeton coming back” is right up there with “We really do have some great young pitchers coming up this spring” and (from GM) “We are just about ready to start really reaping the benefits of our scale now” and “Alfa is coming back to the US!” (I know, Alfa did eventually make it back, I hear… though I won’t believe it until I see at least three of the buggers on the street…)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “The Phaeton will rise again” has a nice ring to it.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The Phaeton is Piech’s personal pet project. Unless he drops dead sooner than later, I would expect the Phaeton to make a US comeback, if only to satiate his ego.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    It’s clear VW still can’t figure North America out. I actually thought their jetta and passat cheap out plan would work. I’m surprised it isn’t. This also seems to stink of “confused” VW. Cheapo americanized cars or slightly upmarket German – y cars? What’s it gonna be?

    VW has the Touareg. Is that not large crossover – y enough to count?

    I don’t have a problem with a cheaper Phaeton. I kinda have a soft spot for “everyday” brands with basically luxury car credentials. Genesis. Avalon. It isn’t my kind of car for my life but I do often think I’d pick one up used for dirt cheap if a family ever starts to show up.

    The other issue is if I recall the Phaeton was junk. I’m not a VW basher (love love loved my MTV GTI)…. But I seem recall reading more than 1 long term test where it seemed nearly every day something was failing or not working on the cars. At least Audi you get a better warranty and a loaner car when it stops working….

    I guess I agree I don’t see it.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The cheapout plan DID work. The US-specific Jetta and Passat did and do sell in much larger numbers than their predecessors. The plan just did not work to the extent of living up to VWs delusions of grandeur sales expectations. And now most of the other makes have gone in the other direction, adding the sort of nice touches and features that VW took out of their cars. They did the right thing in the short term, but flat out misread the tea leaves for the long term.

      I think the problem with the big CUV everyone thinks they need is that they would not actually sell that many in the US, and virtually NONE anywhere but the US.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        If they want volume in the US, they need at least one more CUV that is competitively priced.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          Perhaps they have realized that the US is no longer the center of the automotive universe. They ARE #2-#3 in the world mostly without the US afterall.

          Not that I disagree with you, but I also have to think it is not really worth their bother. The compact CUV market is just ridiculously crammed at the moment – sooo many competitors!

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I think we are on the same page. In the US, VW needs to decide what it wants to be. They need to ditch the pie in the sky sales goals if they don’t have volume products or a volume presence in the US.

    • 0 avatar
      Darkhorse

      Yes, the Phaeton was junk. I had a 2004 V8 version and it logged more miles on a flatbed than on its wheels. Three transmission replacements in three years!

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Honda of America may disagree, but Acura’s flagship is the MDX. Chevy’s flagship is the Suburban. Buick’s is the Enclave.

    VW needs to update the Tourag and drop these silly fantasies of competing with the A8.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      So you’ve outlined your misunderstanding of VW. VW owns Audi. The Phaeton was never a competing car to the A8, it was an “alternative” to it, for those who love the VW badge. VW/Audi don’t care which you buy, as long as you buy one of them. The money goes to the same place.

      And it’s Touareg. But by your logic VW’s flagship is the Jetta.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        The Phaeton was supposed to be the luxo-cruiser to the sportier A8.

        Just like how Toyota has the Crown Majesta and LS/Celsior in Japan.

      • 0 avatar

        No, by his logic VW’s flagship is the Touareg.

        Not sure you noticed the pattern of his choices: they’re all SUVs/CUVs that sell well.

        And for the faults of VoGo’s post, I agree. Acura’s must-get-right-update is the MDX, not the RLX. The ‘utlimate’ Buick is easily the Enclave, and the ultimate combination of size, power, and luxury in VW’s range is also easily the Touareg. These are the products people aspire to most in each of these company’s lines (usually also the priciest), ergo the flagship.

        We’re used to classifying each company’s ‘flagship’ as a sedan, but I think that’s a pretty old-fashioned view.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        No, Corey, I get VAG. Sorry I misspelled Touareg. My knowledge of spelling Berber tribes is admittedly weak.

        The point is that large crossovers/SUVs are increasingly the flagships for American brands, and that if VW feels the need for a flagship, they should fix the Touarag instead of re-failing with the Phaeton, which will not offer incremental sales beyond what the A8 gets.

        VW could start by updating that ridiculous name.

    • 0 avatar
      baggins

      MDX definitely Flagship of Acura. With the new 3rd generation out for 2014, its superior to the infiniti Q X60 and lexus RX, and competitive to X5 and ML at a lower price.

      Really a solid choice, see tons of the new ones in my neighborhood.

      I have literally never seen an RLX.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    VW fanboi, here…

    Of course this will be a disaster. Although VW will obviously have modest sales aspirations.

    To draw eyes they’d have to price this thing in A6 territory, not Equus territory. i.e. $50, not $60.

    Otherwise you’re “that guy who paid $60k for a flipping Volkswagen”

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The Passat already has more usable room than the Taurus. Ironically, the Taurus, on this same platform in 2008-2009, was roomy thanks to its styling like an upsized B-5 Passat. For less money, VW should just build a stretched wheelbase Passat (like it does for the Chinese market) alongside the regular Passats. These could be legitimate fleet cars.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      I don’t know why more makers don’t bring their LWB Chinese market cars here to the states. Ya I get it, they have a chauffeur and the family is in the back, hence the enhanced backseat room. In the large car market in the US, I believe the LWB versions would be appealing for the non-livery set.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        100% agreed. Most sedans are so small they ought to be coupes. Build a regular sedan with rear doors/rear passenger room long enough to accommodate a child’s car seat with ease and you’ll have a winner.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The funny thing is that Ford could be building the Taurus with the Flex/MKT wheelbase. Imagine would another 5+ inches of wheelbase would do for the Taurus. It would certainly give Ford the ability to make a less cramped large car.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Depending on fleet demand vs Explorer, Ford might take the Taurus fleet only as it did with Crown Victoria in 2007. If this were to happen I say pump Flex as its civilian replacement.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I can see the Taurus being fleet only. I really hope the Flex makes it another generation too. Having a Galaxie sedan version of the Flex wagon would be asking too much though.

          • 0 avatar
            tonycd

            The problem with the Taurus isn’t lack of rear seat room, at least not for two. The problem is lack of FRONT seat room, thanks to that “cockpit” style console.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I know why. First of all, the Passat is roomy enough. It’s probably first or second-in-class for interior space in a mid-sized sedan. And second of all, people don’t want their full-sized sedans to just be long-wheelbase versions of the mid-sized ones, especially now that a nicer full-sized sedan (Impala LTZ, Avalon Limited, Azera w/Tech Package…) is practically a luxury car.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        We are starting to get Chinese LWB models now. Isn’t that what the BMW 3GT is? Plus, all the large sedans are turning into stretched midsizers.

  • avatar
    Glenn Mercer

    Here is what I don’t get about car companies that start with “V” (bear with me).

    VW basically INVENTED the small/cheap/practical segment with the Beetle… and never managed to follow it up (I guess Renault did it for them, with Dacia.)

    VW essentially INVENTED the minivan market (or at least its forebear) in the USA, with the microbus… and then never went after it, once it exploded in growth with Chrysler’s launches.

    Volvo basically DEFINED safety in the USA.. yet never launched a minivan, which is arguably the vehicle type most highly prized by safety-conscious parents.

    VW pulls off the near-impossible, by moving Audi (slowly, painfully, expensively) upmarket to the point where it joins the global mass-market premium duopoly of BMW and MB (yeah, Lexus is there, too, but only in the USA)… and then repeatedly lurches into competing with this division by trying to move the VW upscale with Phaeton. Hey, guys in Wolfsburg? “Volk” means the people, like, mass-market people? And “Phaeton?” Means, like, the Greek junior deity who COULD NOT CONTROL HIS MODE OF TRANSPORT and so was killed by Zeus? Hello? Listening, guys?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Volvo, when it was independent, focused on sedans and wagons for family hauling because that is what was selling in Europe at the time, not minivans. Why Ford/PAG didn’t look at them I cannot say.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Ford has a number of minivans in Europe (B-Max, C-Max, Grand C-Max, Tourneo, Tourneo Connect, S-Max, and Galaxy) . Luxury brands don’t really have minivans though. They are starting to get people mover things, but its been pretty recent.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m surprised they didn’t have PAG-Volvo engineer one and they sell a decontented Ford version.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’m sure you can find Volvo roots in some of those products. the S-Max and Galaxy use the EUCD platform and the C-Max/Grand C-Max were on the C1 platform.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          “Luxury brands don’t really have minivans though.”

          Yeah, although I’m afraid that the guys at Mercedes-Benz might be seriously entertaining thoughts of offering their V-class minivan here…after watching the R-Class (aka “mommywagon”) fail before their very eyes.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My last boss had an R63 AMG. She traded it in for a GL63 AMG. I’d like to see a V63 AMG because ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Lexus is NOT there. Lexus competes with the 2nd tier Luxury brands (Acura, Infiniti, Volvo, Lincoln, etc) for the most part, despite offering the LS. They are just NOT in the same league as the German Three, despite decent US sales. For the most part, the folks who buy German (myself certainly included) could not possibly care less about them. They are the luxury car for the Camry set. Literally.

      The Phaeton originally existed for two reasons. #1 because Ferdinand Piech wanted it to exist (and really, does any other reason than that even matter?). #2 to amortize the costs of the Bentley platform over more cars. Any sales in the US were gravy.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I disagree as Lexus still builds world class luxury cars, Camry clones notwithstanding. Murliee posted a junkyard find of 66 Mercedes today, do you expect today’s Mercedes to still be on the road forty years from now? Even twenty years from now? I don’t but I do expect to see Lexus product of today’s vintage.

        • 0 avatar
          alsorl

          Well stated regarding lexus. There interiors still melt and fall apart in the Florida heat/sun.

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          28-Cars-Later,

          Survivorship bias.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Perhaps, Jmo although I would wager most of those were still on the road through the late 80s.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Lexus’s sales do rely heavily on its less-exotic vehicles (namely the ES and RX); however I do think that it is regarded by most consumers as being in the same class as the European luxury automakers. In terms of actual mechanicals, I think that Infiniti and Cadillac are better-poised to compete with the Europeans than Lexus is, but it’ll probably take another two product-cycles for that to become apparent.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @Kyree

            I think Lexus is considered on par by consumers who could never afford to actually buy any of them. If they were considered on par with the Germans, the LS, GS, and IS would actually sell. They don’t sell well, even here in America. In Europe they are a joke.

            The original LS was a lucky hit in a couple ways. It was bang-up-to-date when the current S-class was OLD. And it WAS bargain priced. They lost both of those advantages a long, long time ago.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            That explains why the Lexus LS outsells everything in its class except the new Mercedes S-class in the US. You are truly becoming a universe unto yourself. Go to a private hospital sometime and look at what all the pauper MDs are driving. I suppose they’re not wealthy enough for German cars, since they have to work for a living and can’t schedule their lives around dealer visits.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Also disagree, and further disagree with your tier structure. Lexus is at the top with the Germans, Acura (barely) and Infiniti are in 2, Volvo and Lincoln are in 3 with Hyundai.

        • 0 avatar
          kmoney

          I’d go with this as well. The only Lexus cars that I would include in the “camry set” are the front drivers (ES, CT and RX ). Not because they are built on a Camry platform, but because the are generally more cheaply made than the RWD Lexi and sold as stepper vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Except, the “Camry set” makes up the bulk of Lexus sales, and the NX will only increase that (and let’s not forget that the GX and LX are basically rebadges of Toyota SUVs).

            While definitely ahead of Infiniti, much less Acura, Lexus is more like Tier 1.5 – which is where I would also place Cadillac for the moment.

            While Cadillac does not have a flagship sedan yet (until the Omega launches), the CTS sells a good bit more than the GS and at a higher ATP (actually close to that for the E Class) and Cadillac also has the XTS in the same midsize price segment so sales in the $45-60k price segment for Cadillac is significantly higher than that for Lexus.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          The MDX is excellently-priced, and it’s a great car if you need a genuine three-row crossover with some actual driving excitement. The RLX is also quite nice with SH-AWD, but not at the price that Acura wants for it. Other than that, I don’t see how Acura sells *crap* these days. In particular, I don’t like the RDX. While it’s true that sales have gone up tremendously since that model went from a tuner SUV to a “mommymobile”, it really doesn’t even excel at that…the SRX, XC60 and even the RX are quite a bit more interesting to look at and they also seem to be more-upscale.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          krhodes1, the original Lexus LS was “a lucky hit”?

          Yeah, insofar as their luck was the product of an audacious multi-billion-dollar investment, an entirely new chassis/drivetrain, a level of quality and execution that revolutionized mass-market carmaking, and a whole new business model for its dealer network that encompassed everything from contractual power to enforce a quality customer experience, to an innovative proprietary satellite network so the customers would never be stranded for parts.

          Then when they put out the first cars to the folks, some developed a minor problem with light-bulb heat melting the third-brake-light enclosure, and they drove out to every affected owner to PICK UP the cars and give them loaners for the service, all so the quality impression they’d worked so hard to create wouldn’t be ruined.

          Kinda created their own luck, you could almost say.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    The design of the next Phaeton has nothing to do with the US market. It will be designed for Chinese buyers, hawked on the company car market in Europe, and possibly offered here (though not actively marketed). It’s only reason to be in US showrooms is that it makes the next most expensive sedan (CC) an easier sell.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I can’t see the Phaeton working in China. People who can afford luxury cars there want a luxury brand. Not something sharing a logo with the ubiquitous Santana taxis covering every major city.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Speaking to that, the Santana wasn’t a bad looking car.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Actually, the Asian (well, more so the Korean and Japanese) auto markets are used to luxury sedans from Hyundai, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Honda, Samsung Renault, Mitsubishi, etc. – tho, the luxury models tend to have their own special badging.

        And as for the whole ubiquitous taxi thing, Europe (esp. Germany) is littered with E Class and 5 Series taxi cabs (so it’s not even lower end models being the taxis).

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Right but luxury sedans from Samsung-Renault are Nissans for the most part, and the Mitsubishi ones are Infiniti and thus Nissan. Daewoo had some which were Holdens. Kia has had luxury sedans only very recently, they don’t qualify as “used to.”

          The only manufacturer in the Korean market to have their -own- luxury cars for a while now is Hyundai.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Maybe they need a larger car for the Chinese market but here in the US they desperately need a refreshed compact CUV, a price competitive mid-size CUV/SUV and a subcompact before they even think about a large semi-luxury sedan.

  • avatar
    gtrslngr

    Wait Wait ! Don’t tell me . The Plan is for VW-Audi to go belly up in the next decade or two . Yeah . I get it ;-)

  • avatar
    fredtal

    What I have never understood is why the VAG family doesn’t cooperate more between the various brands. I’m kind of simple but I’d have VW be the standard bearer, Audi the luxury brand and Porsche the sport car. Put them all together on one lot and let VW buyers aspire to Audi and dream of Porsches. I know there is some animosity between the various families but their competition is MB and BMW, not each other.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think part of it is the image for Audi and Porsche buyers. Neither of those buyers want to be associated in any way with VW. Audi and Porsche customers expect a high-end espresso sales and dealer experience, and the VW customer will be happy with a balloon for their child.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I dunno. I see a lot of Audi drivers bragging on their cars’ VW origins….and not even the VW fanboi crowd, necessarily. But Porsche? You’re absolutely right. Cayenne drivers don’t want to be told about their car being related to the Touareg.

        • 0 avatar
          TXCOMT

          I tell people the wife’s new-to-her Cayenne came out of the same factory as the Touareg and the big Q all the time! Of course, I do that so they won’t lump us in with the Porsche snobs around here! Kinda glad the Pepper (I refuse to call it a Pig) has the VR6 mill, too…that thing’s stout enough for us!

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    I’ve never seen a car stay on a lift as long as a Phaeton. I did drive one last week, a W12. I only drove it ten meters though. After all that work the check engine light is still on.

  • avatar
    wsn

    In the car market, there are rational sales (i.e. Camry) and emotional/prestige sales (i.e. Ferrari). Most cars have a bit of both.

    Phaeton is simply lacking in both regards. In terms of being rational, it’s just as expensive to maintain as an A8. In terms of prestige, it has a badge that’s positioned lower than a Buick Verano.

    If you look at the Lexus ES, it has the best of both worlds: bullet proof Camry reliability and low cost + Lexus badge and dealership service. And it does sell well.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Large car sales are in the toilet. I honestly think this is because wives have more influence on purchases than they did in the large cars heyday back in the 60s – 70s.

    What do women want? CUV-SUV.

    If all Dad has sole say over is his commuter vehicle, for most guys it makes little sense to buy a big sedan just to go back and forth to work. Mom has the family “taxi” and it ends up being SUV/CUV.

  • avatar
    ChesterChi

    I visited the Phaeton factory in Dresden a few years ago. It ended up being a bit of a waste of time. For some reason they try to make the guided tour as long as possible, taking up at least half an hour showing you unremarkable meeting rooms in the building.

    There is one ridiculous part where they describe the process of picking out colors and materials when you’re ordering a car. It would be too simple to point at the blue paint sample and say “I want that color”. Instead, the blue paint has been applied to an 8″x10″ rectangle that has an RFID chip so you can pick it up and place it on a desk that has an RFID receiver and some computer figures out “they want the blue paint”.

    The factory floor is fairly interesting, although it seems that most of the work is done elsewhere and they just combine a few modules to complete the car. There is a walkway for visitors directly above the factory floor so you get a good view.

    At the end of the tour I sat in one of the cars and found out that Phaetons are fairly compact and not even close to large luxury cars like S-class and 7-series. This leaves me wondering what the point of the Phaeton is.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “At the end of the tour I sat in one of the cars and found out that Phaetons are fairly compact and not even close to large luxury cars like S-class and 7-series.”

      That didn’t sound right, so I looked it up. Here’s where the Internet ruins your credibility.

      Length in inches, 2006 models:

      06 Phaeton
      203.70

      06 S500
      203.30

      06 A8L
      204.40

      06 750Li
      203.90

      Did you go on the Phaeton tour and then sit in a Jetta at the end?

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I don’t doubt that something this size from VW might work, but it needs a new nameplate.

    Build it on a stretched version of the Passat Platform. Sell as an alternative to the CC. Same size as A8.

    Standard Features:
    AWD (no cost option)
    REAL Leather seats
    V6

    • 0 avatar
      CRConrad

      They already have that; it’s called the A8.

      The whole point of the Phaeton, as I see it, IS precisely the VW nameplate — it’s for people who want the ultimate “sleeper” car.

      All they really need to do is add a third alternative to the already available no-cost option of leaving off the model name on the rear: Have it replaced with “Passat”.

      Or perhaps they should actually go ahead and change the model name to that; something like “Passat XL”, or perhaps better, just “Passat L” (with the additional letter/s in a smaller format and sub-script).

  • avatar
    cdnsfan27

    I work for an Audi/Porsche/VW dealership and I get confused about VAG strategy but at the end of the day one of the B&B was right, the US does not appear to be an important market for VAG. Their strategy appears confused but in their defense the grosses are much higher in other markets than here. They do want to be a major player but VW does not understand the US market, it just confounds them.

  • avatar
    baconator

    Well, it’s widely reported that the new Phaeton will be built on the MLB platform, which is shared with the A4, A6, A8, and Passat. So what’s the development cost for it – maybe $200M? So they break even at 4000 units of production? This is where the value of modular platforms becomes clear. Is there a market for, say, 5000 Phaetons if that’s a $45k-50k VW that offers A8 space and driving dynamics? With a TDI engine to differentiate it from the Genesis / Avalon / etc.? Yeah, I bet there is.

    Note that April YTD sales of the CC are just under 4k in the US alone.

    VW *also* needs a small crossover that is better packaged than the Tiguan, and a 7-passenger SUV. But VW certainly has the bandwidth to develop these in addition to a new Phaeton.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I have issues with this. It’s similar to how I said that the 7-Series (and ultimately the land-yachts that are the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Wraith) shouldn’t share their foundations with the lithe and compact 3-Series. I can see the A6, A7 and A8 sharing a platform. But the A4? I’m not so sure. They could probably go ahead and put the A4 on the MQB platform, alongside the MK7 Golf and the new A3.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Are we certain the A8 is losing its individual platform? Is this in print somewhere?

  • avatar
    j.neil.davidson

    I think this is a great idea.

    Now that the Passat is a stretched Golf (transverse FWD only), they have a spot to fill. When the B5 Passat came out ’97, it was a rebadged Audi A4. I might be a little subjective here because I have one a love it. It was a great car and VW sold a lot of them.

    When the B6 Passat came out, it wasn’t the same. The B5 is the superior with a longitudinal motor with AWD capabilities.

    If they make a rebadged A4 now, it’s bigger than the Passat, so what will they call it?

    Phaeton.

    I see this car as the true successor to the B5 Passat.

  • avatar
    dmw

    I see a new “phaeton” for the U.S. as a stretched (~112in WB) MBQ CC with the multitude of blanks around the shifter filled in with the features not normally supplied in the U.S., and standard AWD. There is your 55K K900 “beater”, if you like. This may be the China-market NMC thingy they showed last month, but maybe with more chrome. I agree that no one really cares about “flagship” sedans anymore. BMW’s flagschiff is now the X-something, not the Siebener. In the U.S., if it’s a sedan, people want a sporty thing, not a boat, espeically given the Graf Spee-like scale of current flagships.


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