The Fall of Phaeton

The WSJ has a striking graphic to counterpoint a short story on Volkswagen’s decision to withdraw its luxury Phaeton car from the U.S. As the figure shows, Phaeton sales have fallen off a cliff in the U.S., with the company selling a mere 38 units in February of this year.

To put it in a kind of context, Lexus sells around 2,500 units a month in the U.S. of its GS 300/430 sedan. And even Ferrari sells more than three times as many units per month in the U.S. as does Volkswagen with its Phaeton.


  1. You know it’s all about branding…
    Put a new body and a flying “B” on the thing and it’s a big success.
    The Bentley Continental Flying Spur and the very successful Bentley Conti GT are both based on the Phaeton. I think a Rolls is too?

  2. Yup, I think all three are. Mind you, I don’t think any of those three sell in big volumes or are growing materially.

  3. The Phaeton was a disaster in the making from the day it was announced – a marketing disaster, that is. The car is a technological marvel, but it bears the wrong logo. At the $80K level people don’t buy a Volkswagen… they buy Audi’s which is the same company. This car clearly should have been branded Audi.

  4. Bentley has grown signficantly from 1000 cars/yr in 2000 to 9000 planned in 2006. They did about 8k in 2005, 6500 in 2004.
    “In other VW-owned brands, Bentley is managing high and sustained demand for its Continental GT, while ramping up the Flying Spur at its Crewe, U.K., plant with overflow output at VW’s Dresden plant that builds the slow-selling Phaeton.”
    That 9000 number is ‘capped’ to ensure exclusivity. So they are raising prices as well.
    When you figure that the cars have at least $80k of profit in them, that ain’t bad.

  5. Interesting. I had read elsewhere that Rolls was not growing (perhaps by design), I assumed Bentley was the same.

  6. And hey, the Audi A8, basically the same car except with an aluminum frame, was not much more coin, but 400 lbs lighter (and had the 4 rings on the nose).
    Marketing disaster – know your customer!

  7. i doubt (at least new) rolls models would be based on the phaeton… as the reign of volkswagen at rolls royce only lasted a short time.
    it’s been a BMW brand for some time now.

  8. the original branding trouble started when then-ceo Piech decided to put audi against bmw (fair), seat against alfa romeo (why not), skoda against the low-price segment and VW against Mercedes (wtf?). phaeton was positioned against the s-class… but s-class customers don’t want a volkswagen.

  9. john pavone says:

    Phaeton owners have been abandoned by VW. Support and commitment to this vehicle has been all but eliminated as VW looks to cut costs. Problematic Phaetons have been all but shunned by Volkswagen and have left these owners with an expensive problem that has only been made worse by prices that have been destroyed and loyalty all but forgotten by the company that biult up expectations of excellence and now delivers almost nothing in return

  10. John P.
    You know nothing about what you write here. There are hundreds of Phaeton owners that haven’t had any problems with this car. The problem is in the poor service by some dealers, but not all. There are very good Phaeton techs out there. Look in to and if you can find the Phaeton forum, you will see for yourself. I am a Phaeton owner and received a letter from VW reassuring me that all warranty and services will be continued. I’ve owned S class Benz’s, 7 series BMW’s and they can’t even come close to this car. BTW, A8L is not the same car. Do some research, maybe drive the W12, then let’s see what you have to say.

  11. JOHN CARRIGAN says: