VW Passat success could return luxury Phaeton to U.S.
DRESDEN, GERMANY (WRCB) - Chattanooga's Volkswagen Passat is part of the company's increased engagement in the United States, a German-based company official said Monday. That increased engagement means there is a "strong likelihood that VW will re-introduce the luxury Phaeton model to the American market," the VW spokesman told American journalists during a tour of the company's factory in Dresden, Germany.
However, the Chattanooga plant will not manufacture the Phaeton. According to Christian Haacke, Media Relations Spokesperson for the Phaeton plant, "The Phaeton will always be built in Dresden."
The current generation of the Phaeton is a $100,000 luxury sedan that is primarily purchased by the Chinese. Chinese customers account for 70% of Phaeton market share. Germany and Russia account for the majority of the remaining market share. The Phaeton was sold in the U.S. from 2001-2006 but Volkswagen discontinued the Phaeton in the U.S. as more Americans purchased SUVs.
Haacke added that the rising awareness of the VW brand in the U.S. is due in part to the award-winning Passat made in Chattanooga. The Passat helped pave the way for possible future success of the Phaeton model which helps the company's reputation.
"When you offer luxury models it enhances your brand in the market," Haacke said.
"It serves as a lighthouse function to other models."
If VW does re-introduce its version of the ultra-luxury Phaeton, the company can give partial credit to the success of Chattanooga's Passat.
The Phaeton plant is Dresden differs significantly from the Chattanooga plant where many parts of the assembly process are automatic using robots. The Phaeton is manufactured 95% by hand, using robots only for the wheels, windshields, and laser printing of the VIN. While the Chattanooga plant can produce hundreds of Passats per day, the Dresden plant produces only 48 new Phaetons per day.
The Dresden plant is known as "The Transparent Factory" due to its glass construction, which allows visitors and customers the opportunity to see every aspect of the production process. The plant employees approximately 500 employees compared to the 2,000 in Chattanooga.
The American journalists were given a tour of the Volkswagen plant as part of a journalist exchange program with the RIAS Berlin Kommission.