A flagship is a brand's most important vehicle. Not only is it often the most expensive car in the lineup, it's meant to represent the future of the brand, incorporating new technologies that will eventually make their way down to other models. With the diesel-emissions scandal still very fresh, Volkswagen has made the right move in announcing that their next flagship sedan, the Phaeton, will be battery-powered.
The company's new Volkswagen Brand Board of Management made the announcement earlier today as part of a wider strategy meeting. Specifics are nonexistent at the moment, but the press release notes that the "redefined" flagship project would feature "a pure electric drive with long-distance capability, connectivity, and next-generation assistance systems as well as an emotional design."
Despite already having the full-size luxury Audi A8 on sale, Volkswagen pushed to create the Phaeton at the end of the 20th century -- the A8 would be the sportier model, with the Phaeton serving as more of a plush, limousine-like offering. After a concept unveiling in 1999, the Phaeton arrived for the 2003 model year.
The Phaeton is, to put it lightly, complex. Over 100 patents were filed for technology that would appear in the car, and it was the first Volkswagen with radar-based adaptive cruise control. It also featured four-zone climate control, adaptive air suspension and engines with cylinder counts ranging from 6 to 12. Only certain dealerships are certified to repair the car, as well. A typical VW, this ain't.
Sales in the United States were dismal, so Volkswagen pulled the Phaeton from that market in 2006. The vehicle soldiered on elsewhere, receiving a facelift in 2007, and yet another three years later. China, with its love of long, luxurious passenger cars, remains the Phaeton's strongest customer base.
Other announcements from the Volkswagen Brand Board of Management include a €1 billion (directly converted, about $1.14B, AU$1.57B or £748M) spending cut, as well as an across-the-lineup focus on electrification, including mild and plug-in hybrids.