- Where the air is thin and the profits big
- There was a lack of formal fascination
- The Santana – a large classic touring limousine?
- This way no S-Class drivers could be won over
Where the air is thin and the profits big
Santana, what else was that? The better equipped notchback model, built from 1981, was largely denied success
The VW Phaeton is history – its successor, the Phideon, is only intended for China. In the sixties, however, the Beetle manufacturer wanted to move up into the higher automobile classes.
I.In 1961 there was market research in the automotive industry. A relevant institute certified Volkswagen at the IAA that the big Volkswagens would sell well. The Type 3 presented would certainly steal market share from competitors from Ford or Opel.
Presence in higher classes promised to pay off. The Type 3 had 1.5 and later 1.6 liter engines and was intended to win over those customers who wanted more than just a small Beetle.
Among the new sheet metal cladding from notchback, fastback (from 1965) and Variant station wagon, the Beetle concept with air-cooled rear engine and rear-wheel drive remained. With almost 2.6 million copies, the VW 1500/1600 built until 1973 nevertheless became the benchmark in the middle class.
The Type 3 made the start: the model was supposed to open up a new, more affluent group of buyers
What had worked so well, the Wolfsburg tried a class bigger. The VW 411 presented in 1968 had grown to a length of 4.55 meters and outwardly had the representative format of an Opel Commodore or Rekord.
There was a lack of formal fascination
“The big one from Wolfsburg”, as the advertisement called him, was celebrated euphorically by the VW dealers. According to VW General Director Kurt Lotz, the 1.7-liter four-cylinder four-door should reach the “group of buyers who want more comfort”.
Together with the successor 412 (from 1972), the spacious sedans and station wagons were the last new Volkswagen Beetle-style: with a boxer engine where the drive is located, namely in the rear, and of course air-cooled.
Just a prototype: the VW 412 with rear window flap from 1972
But already with a modern chassis with front independent suspension and rear trailing arms. A technology for which marketing even cited the Porsche 911 as the source of ideas.
What the models 411/412 lacked were sufficient performance and formal fascination. The Fastback design did show Pininfarina influence, but the long, strange front with sad oval headlights received its first cosmetic surgery after just a year.
Basically an early four-door coupe: the VW 411 built from 1968
But that didn’t really make the maxi-VW, affectionately known as the “coati”, more beautiful, the facelift VW 412 only followed suit for three years. A total of almost 370,000 VW 411 and 412 were built up to 1974, to which the successful Variant made a major contribution.
The Santana – a large classic touring limousine?
Nevertheless, this was far less than the volume originally hoped for. One reason was the power deficit of the four-cylinder. With only 68 hp initially, the largest rear-engined VWs lagged behind many of their competitors.
And the largest air-cooled Volkswagen was in internal competition with the VW K 70, which heralded the end of the outdated rear-engine concept. Within just one year, VW finalized the K 70 as the new brand flagship and built its own plant in Salzgitter for the 1.6 and 1.8 liter sedans.
At the start of the seventies: The press celebrated the angular K 70 as a classic beauty with modern technology
The press cheered. She celebrated the angular K 70 as a classic beauty with modern technology and a large interior. However, the K 70 only survived its air-cooled "coati" brother VW 412 by six months, because in January 1975 its production lines stood still after 211,000 copies. Far too few units than necessary.
Volkswagen did not embark on a new path into higher realms until 1981. Now it was the Santana with the optional five-cylinder gasoline engine, announced as a "large classic touring sedan that Volkswagen has never seen before".
However, the notchback Passat with its high-quality interior had too little glamor for its home market.
In return, this body concept advanced in China as the popular Santana Vista to a multi-million dollar success built over decades.
What the Passat succeeded in doing in the midst of automotive society, family and company cars could not transfer to the luxury class. Neither the 2.8-liter six-cylinder in the Passat B3 introduced in 1988 nor the 2.9 VR6 unit in the Passat B4 that followed could really succeed.
Upgraded: From 1988 the VW Passat B3 was also available with a six-cylinder
Nevertheless, it was the Passat B5 that prepared the next summit assault in 2001. The well-behaved middle-class bestseller ventured to the top of the Wolfsburg model pyramid with an eight-cylinder engine, where, according to the ideas of the then VW CEO Ferdinand Piëch, three more luxury liners were to assist him.
This way no S-Class drivers could be won over
In addition to a W12 super sports car, which remained a concept car, the Porsche Cayenne sister model VW Touareg and the Phaeton were to establish the Wolfsburg-based company as “the best car in the world” where the air was thin but the profits were big.
Only studies remained: the VW W12 Concept from 1998
The Phaeton had already been announced as Concept D at the IAA 1999, but production only started in 2002 in the specially built glass factory in Dresden.
The Phaeton shared components with Bentley and, as a twelve-cylinder, cost as much as twelve Fox, the VW entry-level model at the time.
It was fatal when a Phaeton courted buyers side by side with the Fox in the dealer showroom. This way no S-Class drivers could be won over.
Advance into the luxury class: The VW Phaeton was built from 2002
When all VW dealers had finally succeeded in presenting the long version of the Phaeton, measuring 5.18 meters, it became clear that the magnificent car was crashing like the sun chariot driven by Phaeton in Greek mythology.
The history of the Phaeton developed differently in Asia, where VW was soon selling most of the units. China’s nouveau riche in particular were enthusiastic about the luxury body, the simple lines of which cleverly concealed the high acquisition costs.
Noble VW for China: the VW Phideon
After the last Phaeton rolled off the assembly line on March 18, VW almost said goodbye to the luxury class. There is a successor, but the Phideon is intended for China – and is also produced there. sp-x
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