If at first you don’t succeed…Volkswagen is set to try again when it brings the next version of its big Phaeton luxury sedan back to U.S. showrooms late in the decade.
And the next version is expected to feature a new plug-in drivetrain option, along with more conventional gasoline and diesel packages, according to various sources.
Introduced in the U.S. a decade ago, the Phaeton was a flop the first time around, but VW is hoping it will better connect with American buyers as part of a significant expansion of the German maker’s product portfolio.
The question is whether Americans are finally ready to accept the idea of a full-size luxury Volkswagen, an image that runs counter to the classic perception of the “Beetle company.”
The return of the Phaeton has been something a number of senior Volkswagen managers have discussed since the car was pulled from the market. But it was confirmed by Michael Horn, who recently took over as head of Volkswagen Group of America.
Horn has the challenging task of putting the maker back on track after several years of unexpected sales declines. He is under pressure to deliver on earlier promises that would have the company selling 800,000 vehicles annually in the U.S. before the end of the decade – though Horn has told TheDetroitBureau.com he might need to push back a couple years.
To get there, VW is looking to expand its product portfolio, adding some models specifically geared for the American market, including a new compact crossover based on the well-received CrossBlue concept vehicle. Yet another new CUV also is reportedly in the works.
The original Phaeton delivered something of a shock when it was first unveiled nearly a decade ago. The vehicle was designed to go head-to-head with the best of the premium luxury market, including not only competitors like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7-Series, but also the A8 produced by VW’s subling brand Audi.
Despite good reviews, sales were minimal, at best. What is in store for the next-gen Phaeton remains to be seen, but several VW senior officials have suggested the next model will be far more expressively styled than the original. And, it seems, it could have significantly more onboard technology, both in the cabin and under the hood.
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Based on the Volkswagen Group’s midrange MLB architecture – shared with the Audi A6 and A8, among other models – the Phaeton will likely have a variety of different powertrain options, depending upon market, including gas 6-, 8- and even 12-cylinder engines, diesels — and a new plug-in hybrid, according to Automotive News.
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That high-efficiency engine could share technology with other Volkswagen brands – including Porsche, which will launch the new Cayenne S E-Hybrid plug-in at the Paris Motor Show next week.
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For now, VW officials are remaining mum on specific engine plans, referring to the plug-in as just a “rumor.”
The base version of the new Phaeton is expected to cost around $70,000 when it returns to the U.S. sometime around 2018 or 2019.