2003 Volkswagen Phaeton
The news comes from Bloomberg, citing VW CEO Martin Winterkorn's speech at a recent conference. Winterkorn says a brand as large as VW needs a halo car in the "upscale segment," noting cryptically that "we've seen what happens to brands that don't have that kind of project."
According to the new report, the next Phaeton could arrive at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. Using the Audi A8 as a basis, the new Phaeton could include a hybrid version.
The question, however, isn't whether Volkswagen can build a new Phaeton, but whether people will actually buy one. Setting aside the quality and reliability issues of the last Phaeton, a large part of the car's failure in the U.S. came down to its premium price point--a necessity for a luxurious halo car, but problematic with a VW badge on the nose. When last sold in the U.S. in 2006, the Phaeton ranged from about $65,000 to more than $100,000, depending on equipment.
On the other hand, talk of the Phaeton's return has also included speculation of a lower price of entry--something well below the $70,000 mark.
Could a new Phaeton carve a place for Volkswagen in the upscale marketplace? Could it overcome its troubled name? Could it make sense alongside the Audi A8?
We should find out in about six months.