WOLFSBURG, Germany – Volkswagen confirms plans for an electric-powered version of its upcoming, second-generation Phaeton large luxury sedan.
Meant to battle the high-profile Tesla Model S, the Phaeton EV forms the point of sweeping strategic changes revealed here earlier today by VW brand CEO Herbert Diess and in the wake of the global diesel-engine emission scandal engulfing the German automaker in recent weeks.
However, VW refutes reports it will slash some €1 billion ($1.1 billion) of annual spending as its future reprioritizes investment on electrified and hybrid products such as the Phaeton EV.
The automaker says the big sedan, which it had abandoned in the U.S., “will once again be the flagship for the brand’s profile over the next decade.”
Diess says the VW brand board of management had decided to “redefine the current Phaeton project,” a gasoline and diesel venture.
“The specification features a pure electric drive with long-distance capability, connectivity and next-generation assistance systems as well as an emotional design,” says Diess, who joined VW in July following a successful tenure as head of R&D at BMW.
VW does not indicate when the new Phaeton will be introduced, nor whether gasoline, diesel or hybrid versions are planned.
Wolfsburg insiders with knowledge of VW’s plans suggest the Phaeton EV will share its platform architecture, electric drive system and battery technology with the upcoming Audi Q6 e-tron as previewed at the recent Frankfurt auto show.
Other strategic revisions include an overhaul of VW’s diesel-engine technology. In a move that would bring it in line with rival automakers, Wolfsburg says it plans to equip all future diesels with selective catalytic reduction and AdBlue urea injection in Europe and North America.
VW’s diesel strategy presently relies on a filter to trap tailpipe emissions. But as U.S. regulators discovered last month, the approach also employed a “defeat device” so many of its cars could pass government standards around the world during testing. The device shut off the emissions-trap system after testing and would spew up to 40 times the allowable level of nitrogen oxides during everyday driving.
Development of VW’s widely used MQB platform also will be accelerated, with a focus on providing future hybrid vehicles with new 48V technology as part of what the automaker calls a modular electric toolkit (MEB).
VW indicates it will produce a greater number of hybrid models featuring ranges upwards of 311 miles (500 km), as well as EVs capable of traveling 186 miles (300 km) on a single charge.
Alongside new alternative-drive models, VW says it will create more efficient gasoline, diesel and compressed-natural-gas engines. The automaker additionally hints it is well advanced on plans to introduce autonomous driving technology, saying, “A new standard with regard to driver assistance system is to be defined.”
Addressing the wide-ranging changes, Diess adds: “The Volkswagen brand is repositioning itself for the future.
“We are becoming more efficient, we are giving our product range and our core technologies a new focus and we are creating room for forward-looking technologies by speeding up the efficiency program.
“We are very aware that we can only implement these innovations for the future of the Volkswagen brand effectively if we succeed with our efficiency program and in giving our product range a new focus,” he continues.
“We are working at top speed on these issues. The Volkswagen team has proved it stands united and is fully focused on shaping the future. We have now laid the further foundations for that.”