Volkswagen Cars: Whatever Happened to the Volkswagen Phaeton?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Whatever Happened to the Volkswagen Phaeton?

Volkswagen Phaeton

Introduced in 2002, the full sized Volkswagen Phaeton was sold in the U.S. for the 2004 and 2005 model years. When time came to introduce the 2006 models, the Phaeton was not included in VW’s line up. Two years of abysmal sales spelled the end of the Phaeton at least on American and Canadian highways. What happened to the Phaeton? Will a full sized VW ever grace its North American line up again? Read on and we’ll explore exactly what doomed the North American Phaeton.

There are many reasons why the Volkswagen Phaeton was doomed even before it hit the American market:

  1. Whoever heard of a luxury VW? In a country where Mercedes, BMW, and Audi represent German luxury, the thought of including VW in that sentence seemed all too foreign to most drivers. Ever since the Beetle, the Squareback, and the Bus held sway in the U.S., consumers have been treated to one inexpensive VW after another. Somehow, adding a luxury model to the Volkswagen mix seemed a bit of a stretch.
  2. Too expensive. With a base sticker price of $66,000 the Phaeton was priced tens of thousands of dollars above the price of the Passat, the nearest vehicle in the VW line up to the Phaeton. Many felt that this move was akin to Chevrolet selling Cadillacs in the same showroom: just what was VW thinking?
  3. Disappointing quality: One of the biggest disappointments with the VW Phaeton were its service issues. Quite frankly, the car was seen in the shop more than any car in its class. Volkswagen has struggled with electronic problems and oil issues with several models over the years and the Phaeton has been no exception. With the large number of electronic gizmos found in each model, concern about the Phaeton’s long term dependability were noised abroad before the car even reached America’s shores. Thus, the VW Phaeton already had a “problem plagued” label affixed to it, although that label is partly undeserved.
Despite the Phaeton being pulled, the car did come with some unique features not found in any other VW, and not found in similar luxury models including:

  1. A humidifier. No worrying about steaming up the windows as the car’s humidity was always under control.
  2. Four zone a/c. An air conditioning system personalized for every passenger? Yes, the Phaeton succeed at doing just that by providing separate air conditioning controls for every passenger.
  3. Full time four wheel drive. Yes, some Audis have this feature, but not many Mercedes and BMW models can make that boast. Add in 12 or 18 way power seats, automatic height leveling, and an assortment of other gizmos and it is plain to see that this was no ordinary VW!
Although the Volkswagen Phaeton failed in the North American market, the car is still being built and sold elsewhere around the world. Indeed, it is still receiving accolades from some quarters of the press, suggesting that this may not be the last we have heard from Volkswagen about the Phaeton.

Now, if VW could only remedy its humdrum image and remake its line to include a wider variety of vehicles, then we just may see the Phaeton again.
2007 Volkswagen Phaeton review