2013 Volkswagen Phaeton (European spec)Enlarge Photo
The Volkswagen Phaeton's failure, at least in the United States, is undeniable. But normally VW isn't one to give up without a (second) fight and thus it should come as little surprise that the German automaker is committed to bringing its flagship back to our market.
The Phaeton was dropped from local showrooms in 2006 but overseas it remains on sale, with two rounds of updates (in 2007 and 2010) implemented to keep it competitive. Nevertheless, the car is long overdue for a redesign and it appears buyers in the full-size luxury sedan segment agree—just 4,000 were built last year.
The only problem is that the wait for a new model might be a long one. Talk of a new Phaeton to be sold in the U.S. dates back to 2010. Last year VW said a new model won’t arrive until 2018 or 2019. Now we’re hearing that the car may be delayed again. Remember, the current model first entered production as far back as 2002.
Volkswagen C Coupe GTE concept, 2015 Shanghai Auto ShowEnlarge Photo
According to Bloomberg’s sources, the new Phaeton is ready but VW is delaying its launch as it seeks to lower production and material costs as part of its overall cost cutting measures. VW has already previewed the new model’s styling in the form of the C Coupe GTE concept unveiled earlier this year (shown above).
The idea of the Phaeton was conceived by former Volkswagen Group chairman Ferdinand Piëch and his strong support for the car meant it has remained in the VW lineup despite its lackluster sales performance. With Piëch now retired and VW on a mission to cut costs, it’s possible that the new Phaeton is no longer a priority.
Regardless of when we’ll see the new Phaeton arrive, it’s questionable if such a car even makes sense for VW. Setting aside the quality and reliability issues, a large part of the current model's failure in the U.S. came down to its premium price, which was comparable with that of the A8 from rival VW Group brand Audi once loaded with a few options. Could a new Phaeton carve a place for VW in the upscale marketplace? Could it overcome its troubled name? Could it make sense alongside the Audi A8? We’ll just have to wait and see.