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VW's big plans in China include handcrafted Phaeton

  From China DailyJune 14, 2010

Volkswagen Group invited the motoring world to the resort of Sanya early this month to test drive its all-new Phaeton luxury sedan.

It was the first time the German automaker hosted such an event in China, a sensible decision since the country is now the largest VW market worldwide and also the biggest for the Phaeton.

More than 1,400 of the handcrafted models were purchased in China last year.

"We will be delivering over 3,000 Phaetons this year in China," said Peter Thul, head of brand and product communications for Volkswagen based in Germany.

The company did not disclose when the new 2011 Phaeton, which made its global debut at the Beijing auto show in April, will go on sale in China and other regional markets. The price has also not yet been unveiled.

The upgraded Phaeton offers two wheelbase options, with the longer, 3,001 mm wheelbase version set for sale in China.

Chinese buyers will also have three petrol engine option - 3.6-liter six-cylinder, 4.2-liter eight-cylinder and 6-liter 12-cylinder - that offer power ranging from 206kW to 331kW.

The Phaeton was launched in 2002 and first sold in China in 2004. It competes in the full-size luxury segment with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series.

But unlike its competitors, the car is assembled by hand.

It was the idea of Ferdinand Piech - former CEO of Volkswagen and a noted perfectionist - to develop a top-quality car to demonstrate the automaker's leading manufacturing techniques and to lift the brand image of Volkswagen - literally "people's car" in German - into the upper market.

The car is handcrafted at a transparent plant in Dresden, Germany, an unconventional factory with glass exterior walls so that people can see the manufacturing process from the outside.

According to Robert Schmidt-Hebbel, Phaeton project leader, the Dresden factory is able to make 10,000 Phaetons a year, but the actual number is lower.

Comparing the Phaeton to a top-class watch, Hebbel said the focus is more on craftsmanship than volume.

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