Few vehicles have had the decorated yet complicated past of the Volkswagen Phaeton, but soon, we won't have to talk about it in the past tense. That's right: VW is finally going to bring back the bargain luxury sedan with serious bite. For real, this time.
The automaker confirmed their intentions to Bloomberg this morning, hinting that the new Phaeton may debut at the NAIAS in Detroit this January. Is this a new chapter of reinvention? Or another failed attempt to court a market that doesn't exist? All we know is we can't wait to drive the new Phaeton. We can figure out the details later.
When last we wondered whether a new Phaeton was headed to the U.S., last July, it was sparked by thinly-veiled comments from Volkswagen – the latest in a long line of speculation that have kept driving enthusiasts' hopes alive for years. VW is much more direct this time, however.
"A brand as large as Volkswagen needs a halo project in the upscale segment," said Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn. "We've seen what happens to brands that don't have that kind of project."
The problem is that the Phaeton will face the exact same challenges it did when its run ended the first time. Buyers have a lot of options in the luxury sedan segment, especially with new models from Mercedes, BMW and Audi on the way. Since the Phaeton left us, Jaguar and Porsche have also entered their hats into the expensive ring.
So with all that competition, will anyone pay premium money for a Volkswagen? The original Phaeton boasted a massive engine and Bentley chassis for just $70,000 back in 2004, and a similar package today would certainly be appealing. Few people actually pulled the trigger, though. Volkswagen barely cracked 3,000 sales before killing the project in 2007. What will be different this time around? Besides the extra competition, that is.