Let’s start out here by noting that Volkswagen literally means ‘people’s car.’ In socio-political terms when someone references the ‘people’ they are generally talking about the plebeian masses, the proletariat, the great un-washed. Volkswagen made its name catering to this modest-earning but hard-working audience, and until this century seemed content to do so. What happened to change that was that Mercedes Benz made a move down-market, offering up cars that directly competed with VW’s bread and butter fare, and hence – seeking a tit-for-tat response – VW’s then-chief, Ferdinand Piëch, decided to move his brand up-market, to make Benz feel the heat.
One of the results of Piëch’s plan was the Phaeton, an über-sedan that became the first Volkswagen car to break the $100K price barrier. The cars were meticulously designed and engineered; they featured innovative accoutrements and drivetrains – W12 anyone? – and they proved that VW could play in the big leagues. There was just one tiny problem, and that was the VW badge that each and every Phaeton had to carry. That was for most, a deal killer, at least here in the U.S.. The Phaeton was unceremoniously yanked from the U.S. market in 2006, after only three years of lackluster sales. It was, by all measures, a flop.
Of course, they say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again, and that’s just what Volkswagen is reportedly doing with the Phaeton, with a planned 2018 or 2019 relaunch of the range-topper here in the States. Considering the monumental depreciation and reliability issues that the first round of Phaetons faced here in the States, what I’d like from you today is your prognostication as to VW’s chances of success with this next attempt. Do you think VW’s Phaeton will fare any better a second time?