Archive for October, 2009

Has the VW Phaeton’s time come?

Friday, October 30th, 2009

A number of years ago VW introduced the Phaeton to the United States…a $65,000 tour2006_VW_Phaeton_ext_1 150w, 433w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> de force meant to take the brand up against the likes of Mercedes-Benz.  A true D-class car with all the luxury and performance the segment demands.  It was truly an excellent automobile and from a product point of view pretty darn competitive.  It was also a heck of a lot of car for the money.

The Phaeton failed miserably, with only a few thousand sold.

Many of us thought that VW had simply overstepped, and that the VW brand could not stretch that far up market.  Not unreasonable considering that many of the baby boomers still remember the original beetle and VW’s positioning as an inexpensive, small alternative to the behemoths Detroit was producing in the 50’s and 60’s.  In fact the “inexpensive” portion of the brand’s original positioning haunted VW for years as the cars became more expensive than consumers expected Volkswagens to be.  The Phaeton stretched everyones’ perception of what a Volkswagen could or should be. Most importantly the brand lacked the cachet, the prestige necessary to compete successfully in the Import High Group.  Luxury segment consumers were not interested in sporting the VW badge.

Within the last few months the trades have been reporting that Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen of America are more than likely going to bring the Phaeton back to the US market in MY2010.  Already industry pundits are incredulous that VW would try the Phaeton again.

I think the pundits are wrong.  I think the return of Phaeton will be a success. (more…)

Another brand bites the dust.

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

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News that Penske has backed out of the deal to purchase Saturn will ripple through the industry in a myriad of ways.  Detroit’s economy will be effected, thousands will lose their jobs, dealers and their employees are left scrambling.  These are the serious consequences of the deal blowing up.

Less serious, but no less real, is the fact that another automotive brand will disappear.  There was time when Saturn stood for something: “A different kind of car company.”  The promise of no haggle pricing and a dealer experience that was customer focussed and positive.  These attributes were foundation stones of a remarkable branding campaign:

These ideas and brilliant marketing created the essential ingredient of an automotive brand…brand advocates…..lots of them: