The Volkswagen Phaeton didn't fare so well the first time around in the U.S. Priced too high for its marque's cachet and without the styling or performance to compete with BMW or Mercedes, the Phaeton was, in short, a flop, dead after just three years on sale in America. But Volkswagen thinks it has improved the formula, and is planning to bring the Phaeton back.
Rumors of a U.S. return have circulated for years now. Sales of the Phaeton have continued outside the U.S., and have actually improved over the model run, but the Phaeton that's bringing the swagger back to VW will be all-new, based on the new Bentley Continental GT's platform. The big W-12 engine, however, isn't expected to make the crossover to VW this time around.
Instead, VW will dial back the ostentation to more reasonable realms, sticking with V-6 and V-8 models plus the hybrid system shared with the 2012 Touareg. Diesels will also play a role in the new car, though it's not yet clear if they'll make their way to the U.S.
Still, it will be a gamble for VW, but a calculated one. The U.S., despite shrinking by 30 percent over the last two years, is still the top market for high-end sedans, and VW thinks it needs the Phaeton here to boost its image, and ultimately, volume sales of its smaller, more affordable cars. The Phaeton isn't expeted Stateside until 2013 at the earliest.
The questions to be answered now are: Is the memory of the last Phaeton's failure too fresh? And will it be able to compete with BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus?