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Exclusive: VW moves on Phaeton trademark

Charged up: Volkswagen appears to be planning to take on Tesla in the battery wars, perhaps using its Phaeton trademark that is in the process of being extended to cover batteries.

Batteries covered by Volkswagen AG trademark application for Phaeton in Australia

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Volkswagen logo7 Jun 2016

By RON HAMMERTON

IS VOLKSWAGEN laying the groundwork to use the name of its luxury flagship – Phaeton – to embrace a Tesla-style battery division to go hand-in-glove with its massive expansion into electric vehicles over the next four years?That could be one explanation for the German auto giant’s move to broaden Australian trademark protection for the Phaeton name, beyond the vehicle badge to electrical equipment including batteries.

The company is reportedly on the brink of announcing a giant €10 billion ($A15.4b) investment in its own battery factory in Europe – perhaps double the size of Tesla’s world-beating Gigafactory now under construction in Nevada.

VW Group chief executive officer Matthias Mueller is understood to be ready to put plans for the factory before the company’s supervisory board this month.

Now GoAuto has unearthed a recent Volkswagen AG application for international trademark registration for the Phaeton name in Australia, but this time in Class 9 – a category covering more than 300 types of mainly electrical goods, ranging from compact discs to burglar alarms.

Buried in the Class 9 list are “batteries” and “electric batteries for vehicles”.

The application was lodged in November last year, with a notification date of March 10, 2016.

According to the document seen by GoAuto, the application is “pending, under examination”.

As we reported last year, VW has recommitted to its Phaeton flagship sedan, but this time with an all-electric powertrain.

The Phaeton is one of 20 all-new electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to be produced across Volkswagen Group’s various brands, including Audi, Porsche and VW, by 2020.

Other vehicles include Porsche’s Mission E electric car and Audi’s e-tron Quattro that will go head-to-head with Tesla’s pioneering EVs.

Europe’s biggest car-maker has been a late starter to the electric vehicle push, but, in the wake of the diesel cheating scandal, has committed to selling up to a million electrified vehicles a year by 2025 as emissions regulations tighten in major markets around the world, forcing it to reduce its reliance on internal combustion engines, particularly diesel.

Mr Mueller, the former chairman of Porsche who replaced Martin Winterkorn at the helm of VW Group in the wake of ‘dieselgate’, said at this year’s Geneva motor show that he expected pure electric vehicle driving ranges of more than 500km by the end of the decade, with charging times dropping to “the time of a coffee break”.

In Australia, Volkswagen AG applied for trademark protection for the Phaeton brand name in the motor vehicle category – known as Class 12 – in 2001, as the original V8-powered Phaeton – a Holden Caprice-sized sedan – was being developed in Germany.

The vehicle was launched in Europe in 2002, with the trademark application finalised in Australia in 2003, as Volkswagen Group Australia (VGA) was mulling whether to bring the vehicle to this market, despite concerns that it could sell in only limited numbers.

Although VGA announced in 2004 that the car would land here in 2005, it got cold feet and canned it.

However, the Phaeton vehicle trademark protection is still current, with a renewal date of 2021.

Now, some 11 years after the original application, the second Phaeton name application has been lodged with IP Australia from Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft of Wolfsburg, Germany, covering Class 9 goods and services.

According to Volkswagen Group Australia general manager corporate communications Paul Pottinger: “Volkswagen has formidable capability in the area of electric vehicles, but we presently have no plans to implement these in Australia.”

The question posed by GoAuto is: Why would an automotive company go to the trouble of extending the trademark previously applied to a car to other areas involving electrical equipment?One theory is that VW has noted Tesla’s success with its home batteries – lithium-ion units to store solar power from home photovoltaic systems – and wants a chunk of the action.

It could also mean that it wants to supply its own Phaeton-branded charging points for its new-generation flagship EV.

Or the Phaeton brand might even be applied to a range of VW-produced EVs, like BMW’s i-car range.

We might not have long to wait, as Mr Mueller is keen to go public with VW Group’s electric future within weeks, according to German reports.

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