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All Tests

  VW - Piëchs Flop

VW Phaeton W12/V10, 5.998/4.921 cm3, 84*90,2/81*95,5, 10,75/18,5 : 1, V4/V2, 550/750 Nm 3000/2000 rpm, 309/230 kW (420/313 PS) 6000/3750 rpm, 5/6-Automatic, Eight-piston fixed caliper/two piston sliding caliper, 5,06/2,88/1,9/1,45 m, 0,32, 500 l, Tank 90 l, 1.995-2415 (ca. 600) kg, 250 km/h, 111.300/89.300 Euro, 2002

The big limousine came in the late 90s. So far Ferdinand Piëch had brought all his projects to a successful conclusion, why not this time too? After all, Mercedes had tried to advance into the compact class with the A-Class. So why shouldn't VW try the same in the luxury class?

After all, they had the feeling for a long time that they could keep up with Mercedes and BMW in terms of quality. They also expected more profits from the sale of more exclusive cars. Toyota had shown the way by founding the Lexus brand as early as 1989 and launching it in Europe in 1990.

There was, however, one difference: the VW group already has the premium brand Audi. But somehow Audi's image was more focused on a luxury car that the owner drove himself. In Piëch's opinion, there seems to be no competition to an S-Class being driven with. So Audi A8 against BMW 7 Series and the new sedan against the big Mercedes and Toyota.

Allegedly there was a specification from Piëch for the vehicle to be constructed. It should then be more torsionally stiff than its competitors and be able to operate for 24 hours at 300 km/h with 50°C outside and 22°C inside temperature. It would have been reasonable to believe Piëch that this was finally tested.

Already what was created, was very similar to the Passat, although 38 cm longer. The dilemma of design for the luxury class, it must not be too revolutionary. Basically, cars are becoming more and more conventional, from the smallest to the largest and most expensive. Most premium providers save themselves with bonds to the history, but this was not available for a pure upper class VW.

It came fairly complete, with both the V10 Diesel engine and the completely new W12 petrol engine. In addition the four-wheel drive, later optionally front-wheel drive. Everything not normal like front fenders made of plastic and side windows of laminated glass. Everything except the engine/rear hood and doors made of aluminium was fully galvanized. The cW value was worth for the time of all honours, the Luggage compartment volume as well. Even today, people who regularly travelled long distances in the Phaeton still rave about it.

No, VW has not spared itself; on the contrary, they have done everything to make the car successful. The glass factory in Dresden has been created with a new type of feeding system of components to be assembled over the rails of the tram. It was the final assembly of the new limousine, which visitors could see here, in bright glass halls without noise and dirt.

The production process was somewhat reminiscent of that of chips in a clean room. The new factory had a lot of space, so that the visitor first had to walk through a hall to get to the windows to see the production. This was then also used for all kinds of cultural activities. One could be sure that if one had conducted a survey on the possible success of the new thing, only absolute skeptics would have denied it.

However, such a production could not be economical in view of the fact that only 6,000 cars were produced per year. The press considered the Phaeton to be VW's successful entry into the luxury class, and this was probably more than just a side issue for Ferdinand Piëch. The only thing missing was the name 'Phaeton', son of the sun god, who tries, but is unable to tame the draught horses in front of his father's sun chariot.

Despite 2,500 kg with driver, the Diesel engine could accelerate to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, the petrol engine needed 6.1 s. In Germany all Phaetons were regulated at 250 km/h. It was up to 320 km/h as Jeremy Clarkson claims in the video below. Finest leather and wood determine the interior. Air-conditioned 18-way seats were available for an additional charge. You could also order the car 12 cm longer. The air conditioning was adjustable over 4 zones. And it came a little later with adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and collision avoidance.

Despite the 20,000 projected Phaeton per year, it remained at most 6,000. A facelift in 2010 and V6 engines even with manual transmission could stimulate sales somewhat, but the car remained a flop, often registered for one or two years on VW, going ti leasimg and then sold off. The situation was particularly bad and probably decisive in North America, where it was ultimately only offered from 2004 to 2006. It was better in China, where there was also a kind of successor as Phideon.

Phaeton production ended in 2016 after just less than 85,000 units. It has cost VW a lot of money, but at the same time it has significantly enhanced the image of the VW Passat in particular. Rich people seem to be to orientate less to the true values and more to the image of a brand. They prefer to pay almost twice as much for a Bentley on the same platform. It is the fear of investing in a flop. Dear pay a lot more and feel protected against it. Probably they were told during consultations with their friends with which cars they could 'do nothing wrong'.

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