Delayed, But Not Gone: The Volkswagen Phaeton Is Being Reworked For Profitability

The Volkswagen Phaeton flagship luxury sedan (2014 model shown above) is something of an anomaly in the lineup of the habitually-frugal VW marque.

Actually, that might just be an understatement; the car is downright weird to be coming from such an everyday, consumer-minded automaker. It’s built as a $101,000 alternative to the Mercedes-Benz S-class, by the same rather basic German car marque that gave us the Beetle, Golf, and myriad other affordable, practical cars.

Nonetheless, since 2002, the Volkswagen Phaeton has been built and sold as an expensive, luxurious sedan from a brand which, as a rule, does not make expensive, luxurious sedans. The car is, in fact, soon to enter its second generation – a release which is now going to be delayed until the folks at VW can figure out how to actually squeeze some profit out of it, according to Bloomberg.

To give you just some indication of what a poor sales performer the Volkswagen Phaeton has turned out to be, the automaker stopped selling it in the United States back in 2006, and last year, VW only built about 4,000 units. That’s compared to some 100,000 examples of the Mercedes S-class, Bloomberg reports.

So, material and production costs are being reduced on the Volkswagen Phaeton, in the hopes that the car can actually pay its own way. That decision was made by VW chief Herbert Diess, who formerly headed BMW AG. Such a maneuver may have been career suicide in the past; former Volkswagen AG Chair Ferdinand Piëch was almost viciously protective of the Phaeton, which was one of his closely-guarded-even-while-completely-illogical pet projects.

But with Piëch resigned and new leadership in place, all bets are off. Some might say it’s puzzling that the Volkswagen Phaeton hasn’t simply been axed altogether.

Aaron Birch is an automotive enthusiast and writer/filmmaker from Detroit, MI. As a rule, he only buys cars older than himself.

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