With the aftermath of the recent emissions scandal still fresh, Volkswagen aims for some positive press with the announcement of their new, battery-powered flagship: the next-gen Phaeton. A smart direction away from diesel, but was it a calculated move?
For those who remember the original Phaeton model that became available in 2002, sales were its downfall. Buyers weren’t attracted to the concept of a premium vehicle that felt like a limousine, despite the comfort and space it offered. The model was pulled from the US market in 2006 due to poor sales figures and only kept going, even after a couple of facelifts, because of China’s desire for long, luxury passenger cars.
The newly designed Phaeton promises to be better. There aren’t any details available yet as it’s still early days for the project, but VW says the car will be a “pure-electric drive with long-distance capability, connectivity and next-generation assistance systems”. With the growing electric market and VW’s reputation in the balance, this could prove a crucial endeavour for the company. The brand has stated the new Phaeton will lead the way into its focus on electric models, with a reorientation towards hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Hailed to be “the flagship for the brand’s profile over the next decade”, the new Phaeton is rumoured to reach production in 2020. Other EVs and hybrids are planned to make appearances in the future as well. Whilst this next-gen will be top of the electric range, the other planned fuel-alternative vehicles will be lower down the cost scale. Volkswagen has promised ranges between 155 and 311 miles for all-electric models and ranges of more than 186 miles for its hybrids; both will cover passenger cars and commercial vehicles. It’s going to be a few years before we see any real electrification from the brand, as they’ve invested so much in diesel technologies over the years, so here’s hoping they make it through dieselgate and produce what they’re promising.
One could speculate VW saved the concept from being scrapped alongside €1billion worth of other investments because it was the only way to shine a positive light on the brand. Or perhaps this was always the company’s plan, especially as the rest of the automotive industry is investing heavily into electric and hybrid technologies.
Only time will tell if this move is enough to save VW’s reputation.