Why This Luxury Car for Volkswagen Failed in the United States

Happened to come across a video rolled out by CNBC this week on youtube and thought it was worth a share to see where our fans stand.

If you are like us and a die-hard enthusiast this rare sedan in the early 2000’s always draws some attention if you happen to spot one still riding in the wild.

Introduced to the market back in 2002, the Volkswagen Phaeton was marketed worldwide. The concept of Ferdinand Piech who was the chairman of the Volkswagen group at the time, Ferdinand wanted his engineers to design a car that would surpass the leaders in the German market such as Mercedes Benz and BMW.

2005 Volkswagen Phaeton

Although the group already had a full sized luxury sedan with the Audi A8 the intent of the Phaeton was to develop a sedan with more comfort in mind. Piech gave his engineers a list of ten goals the car needed to hit, most of which were not public. One of these was the fact the Phaeton must be reliable. So much so it should be capable of being driven all day at 186 mph with the outside temp hitting 122 degrees F all the while keeping the interior temperature at a nice cool 72 degrees.

The platform which the Phaeton was built on was shared with the Bentley Continental GT and Bentley Flying Spur while some of the systems such as the automatic transmission and some of the engines were shared with the Audi A8.

If you were to compare the Phaeton side by side with the A8 and more specifically the V8 the Phaeton is about 545lbs heavier,

Some of the interesting facts about the engineering of the Phaeton is that it led to over 100 individual specific patents specifically from the Phaeton. Most notably draftless four zone climate system, the standard torsen based 4motion four wheel drive and was the first Volkswagen to have radar adaptive cruise control.

So what happened?

European markets were more adoptive of the Phaeton with 19,314 Phaetons delivered in Germany by January of 2009. But in the United States market they just could not get as lucky with only 1,433 sold in 2004 and 820 in 2005 which ultimately led to VW ending production for the US market in 2006 model year.

In the United States you can find the 4.2L V8 version which is from the Audi A8 of the time or the much desired 6.0L W12 engine which enthusiasts of the platform love to hold onto. A quick search online finds you can land a 4.2L or W12 Phaeton for under $10k in decent condition

2004 V8 Phaeton
2005 W12 VW Phaeton

Although the Volkswagen Phaeton was shorted lived in the United States (2004-2006), a think the manufacturer earned some respect in the manufacturing industry for taking a bold leap for a brand that was generally in a much lower price point than its competitors and offering a platform which was much ahead of its time.

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