Why The Volkswagen Phaeton Failed In The United States

Why The Volkswagen Phaeton Failed In The United States

The term Volkswagen means “people’s car” in
German, and that is mostly what the brand sells stylish, well engineered
cars that are still relatively affordable. Volkswagen usually leaves the task of
selling pricey sports cars, luxury rides and super cars to its sister
brands such as Porsche, Audi and Bugatti. But there was at least one time Volkswagen
tried to elbow its way into the luxury car market and it failed
miserably, especially in the United States. The Volkswagen Phaeton was, by most accounts,
a marvelous car, but it was expensive. In 2004, pricing in the U.S. started at sixty four thousand six
hundred dollars for the version with the eight cylinder engine. A 12 cylinder version started at
around eighty three thousand five hundred fifteen dollars. It was widely reported to be a pet
project of Ferdinand Piëch, a scion of Volkswagen’s founding Porsche Piëch family
and a longtime Volkswagen Group executive who has been regarded as
very much a larger than life personality in the automotive world. Piëch had held key roles at Porsche
and Audi and over the years demonstrated a taste for high
quality and high priced cars. He was largely behind Volkswagen’s acquisition
of French super car maker Bugatti, British luxury brand Bentley and
the Italian super car maker Lamborghini. With the fate on, Piëch wanted to
design a vehicle that would be nothing less than the best car in the world,
and he wanted it to bear the Volkswagen badge. The Phaeton was meant to lift Volkswagen
to the level of luxury German car makers such as Mercedes Benz and BMW. The problem was, simply, that U.S. customers did not want to spend sixty
five thousand dollars or more on a Volkswagen. The name itself of the people’s car
implies that it’s supposed to be something for the masses and yet here he
was trying to create a car under that brand to compete
directly with Mercedes Benz. And it just it was a car that just
never really fit the brand as good as it was. And it did a little better in Europe
for a time than it ever did here and never, ever sold to any
in any huge numbers here. To be fair, the Phaeton was
said to be very well built. It had all sorts of luxury features,
many of which were quite advanced for the time and some of
which are still rare. For example, the car had a dehumidifier
in the cabin to prevent the windows from fogging. Piëch, who had a background in
engineering, had reportedly handed down a mostly secret list
of 10 specifications. Many of his own engineers said
would be impossible to meet. One publicized spec insisted that the car
be capable of driving 186 miles per hour all day in one hundred
twenty two degree weather and still maintain an internal temperature of
seventy one point six degrees Fahrenheit. Reviewers acknowledged the craftsmanship and
quality of materials in the car. The interior is solidly built
using the finest leather and wood. Volkswagen could find. Even the production of
the car sounded premium. It was built in Volkswagen’s transparent
factory, a glass walled plant with hardwood floors that also functions
as a kind of museum. Volkswagen uses to showcase
its latest innovations. The Phaeton shared the production line
with the Bentley Continental, a car with which the Phaeton
also shared a chassis. But Volkswagen sold only three thousand
three hundred fifty four fattens in the United States, and the company
pulled the car from the U.S. and just a few years. Although sales were stronger in Europe
and China, it remains one of Volkswagen’s most
controversial vehicles. After all, the brand was meant to
bring style and engineering to the masses. The car was also up
against entrenched competitors from BMW, Mercedes and even Volkswagen’s
own Audi brand. Not that it stood much of a chance. The fate hands best year in the U.S. was in 2004 when it sold one
thousand nine hundred thirty nine units. That same year, Audi sold five thousand
nine hundred forty three of its full size eight sedans. BMW sold sixteen thousand one hundred
fifty five seven series sedans. Mercedes sold twenty thousand four hundred
sixty S-classes and Lexus sold thirty two thousand three hundred seventy
three full size LS cars. That same year. Of course, it is understandable that
manufacturers want to go upmarket and there are cars today that well-made as
they maybe sometimes seem to sit a bit awkwardly with their stable mates to
many of those who follow the industry. But anyone who wants to buy a
2004 12 cylinder luxury Volkswagen sedan can now have a on for
less than twelve thousand dollars.


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