A better way to make the comparison would be to look at the advertised prices. As far as I know, Phaetons were generally advertised at significantly higher prices than the Equus is, for similar levels of trim, judging by the sales stickers. There may well have been large negotiated discounts, as there no doubt are with the Equus also. Price might not be the only reason for better sales, but I'm sure it's a factor! I've yet to see an Equus advertised at the price of the sticker on my car!
Last edited by invisiblewave; 10-05-2012 at 03:17 PM.
As far as US perception on VW (and this is merely opinion and observation, no data sourced): VW has always seemed kind of "quirky" or "funky." People hold on to the image of the original Beetle, the VW bus, the era in which these were popular, etc. and so you must be respectively quirky or funky or a bit of an oddball to pay a little bit more and take home a VW. On the upside, they're seen as less snobby than other foreign cars (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Lexus) because they were never really introduced formally as a luxury-capable brand. So when the Phaeton arrived on the scene, it was sort of a "WTF?" moment. We had Golfs, Jettas, New Beetles, and Passats in 2004. This thing came out of nowhere! I guess the assumption was that VW was tossing their name in the luxury hat with little to no experience. Perhaps no one wanted to risk $60k+ on a car without a proven track record in that department. And again, I'm not sure how well VW advertised the Phaeton. In 2004, I'd wager that most folks here still got much of their information about new cars from television advertisements, rather than periodically checking out the offerings online or seeing banner ads or hearing about it through Facebook.
VW also has very optimistic views for diesel cars in the US (and I heard reports that they will be increasing their lineup percentage), but they need to advertise. And in the advertisements, they need to explain the advantages and make it interesting. Chevy seems to be doing a good job explaining in their ads what a Volt is and its benefits (I see them all over around here). But it's an American brand, and it knows the American opinion can be difficult to bend into a new way of thinking. Many Americans still think diesels sound like semitrucks, produce black clouds at every launch, and smell putrid. They think of trucks and old Mercedes diesel cars. VW, thus far, has not done a good job of enlightening the American public on the topic. That, and the fact that they have a higher initial price tag than their gasoline counterparts, is a turn-off for Americans. We do not like to do math to figure out the initial cost might be outweighed by fuel savings later
VW's saving grace, though, may be that they've been slowly expanding their lineup here. They've made the Jetta more "grown up," the Passat boasts some nice luxury options, and the CC has helped fill the gap between where the Passat leaves off and the Phaeton began. If a V6 bare-bones option was offered closer to $50-55k, with a decked-out V8 at the top, presumably over $70k, I think they might be able to pull it off now. And with an aluminum frame to help lighten the load, fuel costs will look more attractive to buyers also.
It's just hard for many Americans to see VWs are cars for normal (or wealthy) adults. After all, Mercedes C class, their lowest offering, can hold its own and isn't really a "cute" car like the Beetle. Mercedes doesn't offer silly cars, and neither do most foreign luxury brands in the US, so they are taken seriously right off the bat. But VWs are just cute and quirky and for extreme liberals who live out of them, right? If I take VW seriously, I'm doing the same for a smelly, dreadlocked, Birkenstock-wearing Berkeley hippie. There is also a lot of peer pressure involved in buying a car here (ask the Chevy or Ford truck guys).
Just my 2 cents. Sorry for the lengthy response.
That's a really interesting analysis, which is completely different from the UK experience of VW.
We have had decades of the Golf appearing as a solidly dependable German-engineered car, with TV advertising where the story line is that the car dealer for another brand is telling a young couple to 'listen to the door shut, it almost sounds like a Golf'.
The Beetles disappeared from view forty years ago, and the replacement just blended into the retro fashion with the Mini and Chrysler PT Cruiser. There has been a 10 year craze to rebuild VW 'micro-van' campers at vast cost as a fashion icon, anything with more than one wheel left attached being a candidate.
So the UK VW image is still iconic, of high quality and desirable, although fragmented.
But we still don't understand why the Phaeton wasn't a sub-brand like Lexus. Everyone knows that Lexus is Toyota, so there's still a glow that reaches down to the lesser brand.
rom what I've seen, Hyundai is offering a stepping-all-over-themselves service. Here is where, IMO VW just doesn't get it. The Hyundai is offering a pretty premium car with premium service and a below premium price. Up-and-commers and down-sizers love this. But VW offered a premium car at a premium price with a below premium dealer experience. If they had stayed committed to the car, regardless of how low it's sales, it would be easier to bring back with full-maintenance and elite VW service including picking-up and drop-off your car from your house. There are a lot of premium cars that will do nicely, but the premium dealership experience, that's what people are paying for.
Haha, yes, I totally agree! Although it is always a bit dangerous to generalize these kind of questions, not to mention be totally objective. I will say something now and am hoping I am not offending anyone. Yet I believe that my views probably represent the average "upper middle class" car buyers in Northern Europe pretty well as I've got quite a few collegues/friends in most neighboring countries. And yes, we've had quite a few discussions on carsThat's a really interesting analysis, which is completely different from the UK experience of VW.
Here in Europe VW is (and ever since the successors of Beetle has been) considered, as Chris said, somewhat upper middle class or semi-premium. This is a pretty high rank. Volvo pretty much lands on the same category. It definitely is closer to VW than Audi. Audi is somewhat more upmarket than VW, but buying a Passat is - for many - about as prestigious as getting a standard model A4. Skoda is the brand which fills the gap below. Everyone knows that they are - under the skin - "the same cars" as VWs but cheaper. The average VW buyer is fully aware he's paying a bit of a premium for a VW.
German cars, in general, are highly regarded (as in everywhere I suppose). Yet VW is a tad more respected than (euro)Ford and Opel. But, generally speaking, buying any German made vehicle can be motivated by saying that "I bought it because it drives so nicely" or "It makes me feel good" or "I feel cool driving it around".
I know this is very subjective, but in my opinion there is a pretty obvious rank from there. French and Italian are still European but "quirky" and their desirability and residual values are sinking much faster. Of course there are conoisseurs who understand the finesses of a Citroën - it is a different story.
Japanese cars, although very popular around here and mostly assembled in Europe nowadays, are notorious for their reliability but considered to be immensely boring. Not many would brag about how nicely their new Toyota drives. And, for most average Joes, Lexus either rings no bell or is just a Toyota in disguise (my feelings exactly). Another interesting thing is, that Prius is not considered to be cool at all, it is "plasticky" and not many understand why you'd get a gasoline hybrid when you can drive a diesel for less (money and fuel).
Now, then, we are getting to Korean manufacturers. I do have a few collegues with Kias and Hyundais. I must say that the only justification I have ever heard from them for getting the car has been "it was cheap" or "it has a long warranty". I am sure Koreans will eventually succeed in improving their image, but it will be a long journey...
Therefore, absolutely no pun to anyone intended, I have always been quiet but kind of laughed myself when ever Korean cars and VW have been mentioned in a same forum post. I (and I believe quite a many Europeans) feel that these two cannot even be compared - it is like comparing Chateaubriand and sausages. I'd never categorize myself as a snob of any sort, but I do appreciate quality motors. I'd have no problems in justifying my purchase of any European brand. I could possibly consider Japanese, should I be looking for ultra-reliable transport, not caring at all about the joy of driving.
But then, personally, I could never, ever consider getting a Korean car. For me, and at least for the friends I have discussed this with, they are a "forbidden fruit". It is like you'd admit that you had a dinner at McDonalds, spent your vacation on a packaged holiday in the Canary Islands, or that your Rolex is a fake... (!) It really has nothing to do with the quality of the car - i am sure Equus, for example, is a quality vehicle. It is just that... If this feeling is anything like the prospective luxury car buyers in the US felt when the Phaeton was offered to them, I can perfectly understand the end result of Phaeton's US conquer.
Last edited by jkuisma; 10-06-2012 at 07:00 AM.
All very interesting comments! It sounds as if the image of VW in the rest of Europe is essentially the same as it is in the UK, and somewhat different from their perceived image in the US. Jouko, your comments towards the end about Korean luxury cars does, indeed, reflect exactly how the Phaeton itself was viewed when it was sold in the here (US). I've heard from several salespeople at the dealers that prospective customers would come in, drive the car, love it, but decline to buy it because of the badge. Most of the US owners seem to have bought a Phaeton in spite of that, or because they don't care about the badge/image, or they value the way the car drives etc more highly than they care what their neighbours think.
With regard to the Equus and servicing, Hyundai, from what I can tell by reading, have gone exactly the same route that VW tried to go. Only certain dealers can sell it, and there's a premium service arrangement for it (picking it up from your house, etc). However, if you read the customer comments, it looks as if they're repeating the Phaeton mistakes, I've read numerous comments complaining about the difference between their service expectations and the service they're actually receiving. Might be good news for residual values for those of us thinking about a switch, everything's teed up nicely to follow exactly in the footsteps of the Phaeton!
Hyundai/Kia seem to be doing better over here than years past. I think especially in the Midwest, a car can be more of a tool than a personal item (i.e. it gets you where you need to go, but make, model, color aren't necessarily as important as price and it'll be used and abused until it dies completely or rusts apart). So why not a Hyundai for this job, especially with the warranty? And yes, I agree down-sizers or those dipping their toes into the luxury market pool would appreciate the value of the Equus. But Hyundai is still not respected here like the European brands, and the European brands can be considered kind of "frou-frou" around here I haven't run into any "buying foreign cars take jobs away from America" guys yet, but that mindset is out there as well. Funny, because Mercedes, VW, etc. manufactures in the South and employs many! And not everything on an American car is "Made in America" anyway. For instance, if I bought a Mercedes, it would probably be seen as a tedious beast (damn finicky foreign cars), but at least respected because they are seen as quality (but you should've bought a Ford). With the Phaeton, people can't really believe it came from VW. They like how it looks and all the cool stuff it does, but can't fathom where VW got its "frou-frou" from all of a sudden. Because, they make fun little cars in the Honda/Toyota price range for quirky people.
About dealerships: At least if the one I frequent got the chance to sell and service Phaetons, I know I would be treated right. I bring the car to them when I need warranty service, and they have a Phaeton tech on staff. These guys do their best to accommodate and listen and work with me on problems, so I'd have no issue with taking a new one to them. But if I lived 50+ miles from a reputable Phaeton service location, I might reconsider. If there was one in my backyard but they didn't kiss my ass every time I went in... Well, I'm not really that kind of person.
And don't worry about offending anyone. I once needed an unexpected rental and they were short on cars, so I could've taken the Kia Rio and been on my merry way. I waited until someone turned in a Mustang convertible (no German/Swedish cars usually in inventory). Sorry, I just couldn't do it...
Invisiblewave's comment is interesting. I tend to have bought 'arbitrage' cars, marked down because they don't fit Joe Average's snob ratings or the press get a bee in their bonnets, and so they become extremely good value (for their specifications). I guess Phaeton fits that, vs Bentley.Hyundai... might be good news for residual values for those of us thinking about a switch!
Some of my others in UK over the years have been :
- Jaguar Mk 10 (disastrous US launch, dumped)
- SsangYong (Mercedes running gear and build operations, but brand image slated by the press and stock dumped in UK)
- Neon (a flop in UK and highly discounted)
- Hyundai Sonata (image disliked by UK press, but mine went the 140k course in comfort and ended up in Turkey)
- Jeep Commander (another Mercedes but a total mismatch to UK market, or probably any market, and UK stock dumped)
- Hyundai XG (highly respected semi-luxury Mitsubishi platform, E-class spec, but brand image slated in the press and UK stock dumped)
... and Phaeton (fill in this description yourself!)
Talking of arbitrage, I wonder if there's an export market for used Phaetons to China? Shipping is cheap via empty return containers!