By on June 15, 2010

Jack Baruth’s favorite car (he was pretty much alone with that affliction) is coming back stateside: The Phaeton, Volkswagen’s hand-built ueber-mobil. Not a rumor. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn said it to the Freie Presse in Chemnitz. A VW spokesperson  in Dresden, where the Phaeton is handcrafted , said there is no exact timing.

The car was sold until 2006 in the U.S.A., with less than overwhelming success. Undeservedly, it’s a great car. Especially on the German Autobahn with the W12  engine and a friend at Volkswagen who took the silly 250km/h limitation out of the computer. When Americans didn’t get the ostentatious understatement the Phaeton offers, Winterkorn’s predecessor Bernd Pischetsrieder ordered retreat. Winterkorn now calls that „a short winded decision.“ Winterkorn told the paper: “Launching a newcomer in the luxury segment needs patience and perseverance.“

The Phaeton’s main market will remain China. In the last year, 1400 of the car were sold in the Middle Kingdom. This year, the target is 3000, says Gasgoo. A facelifted  Phaeton, including one with the for China obligatory longer wheelbase, was debuted at the Beijing Auto Show.

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47 Comments on “Attention, Jack Baruth: Volkswagen Brings Phaeton Back To The U.S.A....”

  • avatar

    If they get the large VW logo off of the front of the car, they might actually sell. Hard to move upmarket with the same logo.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Strangelove

      Yeah, it’s hard to understand what VW is trying to accomplish with this car when they already have Audi. Considering how long it has taken them to establish Audi where it is now, what is the point of driving a second brand upmarket – and downmarket at the same time, as with the new Jetta?

    • 0 avatar

      Love the Phaeton, an elegant car that could work at the right price. Definitely an alternative to the up and coming Hyundai Equus. Hyundai selling a (near) 6 figure car in NA??!! Rumors say Hyundai may try to bring the Equus to the US in the $50,000 to $60,000 range. By the way, I have owned two successive VW GTI’s and the uninformed opinions about VW reliabilty are bizarre. The last two generations are vastly superior to the previous four.

  • avatar

    Mixing the VW name with VW unreliability and a $65k price tag = few sales, no matter how impressive the car is.

    Phaeton 2.0 will turn out the same way.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Strangelove

      ADAC statistics don’t support your cliche in any way. The Phaeton is hand-built in Dresden/Germany, not in Mexico.

    • 0 avatar

      Hand-built = Crap

      A hand made lady’s pouch may be nice. But for anything that’s supposed to run at 100mph+, I would prefer robot built.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Dr.: One thing the Japanese proved with their American plants is that it is the system and the engineering that make reliability, not the race of the workers. Is hand-built in Germany a guarantee of anything?

      Not even the nationality of the workers, who may be Poles or Turks.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr Strangelove


      It is generally understood that the reliability of models of any manufacturer can vary, and that one of the important variables is the plant in which each model is assembled.

      That doesn’t imply anything about “race”. Don’t put words in peoples’ mouths, and do work on your reading comprehension if you want to be taken seriously.

  • avatar

    A wild-ass prediction of the day, a year from now: “VW Takes Phaeton Back From The U.S.A.”

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Sorry VW, you already fooled me twice. I won’t pick up a third one.

  • avatar

    This will be a hot new car, if priced at $40k.

  • avatar

    This is my dream car. I have a deep love for over-engineered cars and some have argued that the Phaeton is one of the most over-engineered cars to date. Some dream of a Lotus on a track I’m more up for a S600 or W-12 Phaeton on the Autobahn; a big, heavy, fast, quite, smooth, supremely comfortable autobahn cruiser. Something to get you from Frankfurt to Munich in 90 min.

    (I also have a strange affection for obscure luxury cars – I’d love a Toyota Century or a Nissan President or a ZIL limousine.)

  • avatar

    Another fine example of the arrogance of German auto execs. This will be just as big a bomb this time as last. The Phaeton is a wonderful car with the wrong brand badge sold at the wrong dealership. They would have been better off selling them as Phaetons without the VW badge at Bentley dealers. This could be an enrty-level car for Bentley dealers to sell. Bet they’d sell more this way than at V-Dub dealers!

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      And at higher Prices.

    • 0 avatar

      You both are most likely right, Bentley dealers would probably sell more of them at higher prices. They probably don’t want to put a German built vehicle in a Bentley dealership to maintain Bentley’s English heritage or go down market from current Bentley price levels.

      I have yet to see a VW store including the newest ones that makes me think of a car like the Phateon. VW is definitely the wrong brand to market this car under in the U.S.

      Maybe a Lamborghini dealership?

    • 0 avatar

      Ummm, it IS a Bentley! This is what is under practically every model. This was how VW amortized the platform after stiffing so bad with the Phaeton.

    • 0 avatar

      It may share platform/drivetrain/components with Bentley but it is in no way shape or form a Bentley IMO. If they wanted to market it as a Bentley (which would never happen anyway) they would have to redesign the front end to give it some resemblance to a Bentley.

      Probably is a nice vehicle but marketing it through the U.S. VW dealer network kills it before it’s even available. For all but a handful of hardcore enthusiasts no one is going to their local VW dealer to buy a car like this. In fact buyers in this segment don’t have VW on their radar so it’s not even a consideration.

    • 0 avatar

      Making it an entry level Bentley is a really good idea! Make lemonade from lemons, right?

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    It seems appropriate that this car shares a name with a cartoon villian prone to bombast, megalomania, and hubris.

  • avatar

    You don’t want a ZIL. Or a ZIS. Trust me on this.


    • 0 avatar

      Or a Red Flag (Chinese) limo, which was based on the ZILs.

      Yeah, Mao and Deng tooled around in them, but when I was working in China in the mid 1990s, my local colleagues and relatives described them as “clumsy” and unreliable. They told me that the Red Flags fell out of favor with China’s bigwigs after an embarassing incident when a Red Flag carring some visiting foreign dignitaries broke down. They switched to Mercedeses and the locally assembled Audis pretty much after that.

      The Red Flag name has since been used on executive sedans that are based on an old Audi design, and shares little or no mechanical kinship with the original models.

  • avatar

    It would make a wonderful Audi A12.

  • avatar

    Welcome back, Phaeton. Wonderful design, great package. Supremely elegant. If I ran Volkwagen/Audi USA I would rebadge it as a “Wolfsburg” and sell it through the Audi supply chain. For years Rolls sold identical Bentleys through their Rolls stores. For some high-end customers, subtlety is everything. I think a refreshed Phaeton would capture more sales from the S Class & Seven Series intenders than A8 customers. Just my $.02.

  • avatar

    Flame away, but I think the Phaeton, offered at a price beginning with “5,” with air suspension that lasts longer than 60,000 miles, would stand a good chance of being the 1990 Lexus LS 430 of this decade. It’s a beautiful car and, except for a (surprisingly) few chronic failure points you read about on the enthusiast boards, seems extremely well engineered and well built. Fifty-some thousand probably is below their cost of production, but I don’t see how they could lose any more than they must have lost last time; “halo” cars rarely make money anyway. A Bentley with a VW badge is probably more right for the times today as well. VW would still have to greatly reduce the quality variation among their dealers. Toyota had the luxury in 1990 of appointing Lexus dealers who already had proven they knew how to be nice to people, and even then Toyota had to subsidize perks like free loaners and valet service. If VW wants to play in this segment, they can’t try to do it on the cheap again.

    • 0 avatar

      The LS was substantially cheaper than BMW 7 at that time. If VW wants to sell more than 1000 Phaetons here per month, they better start with $39,900.

      If they price it at $50k, they can sell about 500 per month.
      If they price it at $60k, then 200.
      $70k -> 100
      $80k -> 50 … You get the idea.

  • avatar

    How many people are thinking “I want an A8, minus all the prestige, the ultra-modern, state of the art uber sexy interior, the best AWD system in the business, and the aluminum space frame. I want a pig heavy, slower, uglier knock-off.”

    Surely there must be 10s of people out there with those very thoughts. 10s!

  • avatar

    Heck, the depreciation on the original Phaeton is so high it is almost worth buying one used.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought about it, but I probably wouldn’t be able to open the doors once it was in my carport.

      Also: No V12 in the US? WTF? If you’re going to have a car that absurd to begin with, why even bother with a boring-ass, plebeian V8?

    • 0 avatar

      I want a pig heavy

      I for one want my high speed autobahn cruisers to have some heft to them.

      600mph in an aluminum tube is fine in the air – but 155mph on the highway in a tin can? I think not.

  • avatar

    It is really difficult for me to believe that VW is this completely clueless in the U.S. market. On top of that they tried this folly once and it was a total flop.

    Stop and think about it, a typical MB/Lexus/BMW/Audi dealership and a VW dealership. Most U.S. buyers don’t even go to a VW dealership let alone for a premium luxury car.

    Whatever Winterkorn is smoking I’ll have some.

  • avatar

    While in many respects better than its cousin, the A8, the Phaeton made no sense for VW (esp. in the US).

    Now, if the Phaeton had a more modest MSRP (starting in the $50K range) and more distinctive styling (i.e. – not look like a larger Passat) – the Phaeton may very well have become a modest success for VW (but an MSRP in the $50K range would probably have meant selling Phaetons at a loss or at best, breaking even).

    It probably would also help if the Phaeton had a more discreet VW badge (anyway, I keep looking at the revised front fascia of the Phaeton and keep thinking – 2011 Azera?).

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy B

      The original LS400 was nearly break-even….some even say at a loss. That may not be the worst model for VW to follow. Especially if they wanted to ultimately expand into a short/long wheel base set up (like their own A8, the LS, or BMW 7 series). More cost associated with that, of course.

      Finding a way to keep it $50-60K would really give some pause to consumers when looking at the Genesis or perhaps upcoming Eqqous even.

  • avatar

    The previous iteration of the Phaeton on these shores turned out to be a bargain when purchased off-lease -Awesome car. I’ve been wondering what car would come close in value for $$ invested…. now a solution. I’ll have to keep then both until 2016 when the new versions come off lease!

  • avatar

    JB isn’t the only fan of the Phaeton that I know of, but he is the only person I know of who is a fan AND an owner.

    From what I hear, VW dealerships are awful. Maybe offering an extra-premium and “exclusive” service, ala GTR & Equus, would convince more people to consider the car.

  • avatar

    Neither the A8 nor the Phaeton impress on reliability

    But the new phaeton looks identical from the outside to the current A8 (handsome car); just swap the badge

  • avatar

    I have had both a 2005 Phaeton V8 and a 2005 A8 4.2, so feel qualified to comment. Firstly, the Phaeton W12 is pretty much a Bentley without the twin turbochargers! I was in Dresden at the factory and saw both the Continental Flying Spur and Phaeton built on the same line. In the white, you have to look closely to tell the difference! The same brakes, suspension, transmission, driveline and a lot of other parts. Yes, the Bentley has a more “bespoke” interior, different styling and more power, but in no way is it built better or differently from a Phaeton. Bentleys built in Dresden were destined for the European market and only the Flying Spur was being built there; Continental GT’s and Flying Spurs are built in Crewe.

    The materials in the interior of the Phaeton are of a higher standard than the A8, but both are very good. Phaeton and A8 also share many parts, but the A8’s all aluminium construction makes it considerably lighter and thus both quicker and more nimble. To me, the current Phaeton is a more handsome car, I don’t care for the “big mouth” grill treatment present in the A8 from 2005 in the W12 and 2006 in other models.

    I feel that many of the reliability issues reported for both cars can be attributed to a lack of knowledge by both owner and dealer service technicians. The electronics are complex and require knowledgable, well trained techs. I am lucky to have excellent dealers in my area (the VW dealer here provides the best service of any dealership I’ve used) and consider both cars to be very reliable.

    IF VW brings the Phaeton back to the USA, I would consider getting one. IMHO, if they make it different from the A8 by offering powerful, economical, diesel engines, they could eke out a great niche market as no other Lux manufacturer is offering a diesel in a car like this. I’ve been driving a Golf TDI and am sold on the technology; big torque at low RPM is nice! VW could promote the Phaeton as an “economical” “socially responsible” luxury car, that has low emissions and uses less fuel.

    • 0 avatar

      What lack of knowledge by the owner are you reffering, and how would this affect the reliability of faulty electronics? Also, if the car is faulty or has issues due to the design or parts from the factory, a lack of knowledge by ‘techs’ would have no bearing on anything unless they were unable to repair the car. Finally, I think there are alot of people on this board that are qualified to comment even though they don’t own either of the vehicles you do.

  • avatar

    In reply to newcarscostalot, I was not implying that others were not qualified to comment, only that by dint of my experience, that I felt qualified. With regard to owner knowledge, bear in mind both the Phaeton and A8 are complex vehicles with many user options. Some owners don’t take the time to learn how these systems work (the manual is hundreds of pages) and, technicians not familiar with the car (common at some VW dealerships where Phaetons are rare),can spend hours trouble shooting, where a knowledgable technician has a quick fix.

    My A8 is now over 5 years old and has close to 70k miles, it has been totally reliable, other than one bad wheel bearing at 62k, it has only been to the shop for routine maintenance. The electronics have not been faulty, and I really appreciate the thoughtful programming Audi has developed.

  • avatar

    I disagree that the Phaeton is just a rebadged Audi A8. Audi always injects at least a little bit of sporting nature into even their luxury models whereas the Phaeton is pure luxury.

    I was a Passat owner when the Phaeton was first released in the US market. I thought it was stunning and the perfect aspirational model for a Passat owner.

    Then, reality reared it’s ugly head.

    I was at my VW dealer for a typical service appointment. No loaners. No car wash. sitting on a hard plastic chair in a waiting room the size of an office cubicle with 8 other tortured souls. On rare occasions, the service department asked if anyone wanted a coupon for a complimentary $3.99 special at the IHOP next door. Wait 2.5 hours to be told, “Your car is ready. We didn’t have time to do anything but an oil and filter change. We’ll do the rest ant your next visit. Please make another appointment when we’re not so busy. Mondays are always a bad day.”

    In the midst of all this tackiness, there is a beautiful, dark blue Phaeton on the showroom floor.

    It is cordoned-off by velvet ropes and sporting a large cardboard sign on the windshield that is hand-lettered, “Please do not touch!”

    Do you have to show them $68,000 in cash before they will let you sit in one?

    As much as I loved this car, I had to wonder who in their right mind would buy a high-end luxury car (This was only the V8) from these idiots?

    The customer service at many VW dealers is appalling. They shouldn’t be dealing with anything that sells for more then $20,000 (most of their current lineup).

    IMHO, VWoA doesn’t treat customers much better than their dealers either. They think most warranty claims are suspicious and that fsilures are the customers fault.

  • avatar

    I’m a fan and a previous owner of both the W12 Phaeton (sold in March) and the Audi A8L (Traded in January). I second all of what Mazdarati said in his postings above. The 3 main problems that caused the car’s failure are:

    1. The people who need the feel good of driving a default brand name car and so can’t justify paying premium to drive a “plain VW aka people’s car” (that is as good if not better than 90% of its competition)
    2. VW of A’s lack of preparedness for a car of this magnitude
    3. Owners with limited knowledge and access to VW dealerships with properly trained technicians.

    The Bentley Flying Spur is the closest car to a Phaeton in VW’s fleet of brands. They actually share over 80% of parts of which the 20% difference is basically cosmetics (extra leather, twin turbo for an extra 56HP.)

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