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Geneva show: VW goes PHEV with Phideon

Electric dreams: VW Group CEO Matthias Mueller touched on the company's plans to roll out more electrified and autonomous models in coming years.

VW Phideon revealed as Mueller details focus on electric and autonomous vehicles


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1 Mar 2016

VOLKSWAGEN Group chief executive officer Matthias Mueller has signalled a greater push towards electrification and autonomous technologies, pledging to establish a chain of "future centres" to develop vehicles for the digital age.

Speaking at a pre-Geneva motor show media event where the company also revealed the Phaeton-replacing China-only Phideon large premium sedan, Mr Mueller emphasised the massive impact electric vehicles and digital tech will have on the industry.

“Electro-mobility and digitisation – the two large topics of the future – will change the fundamentals of our business to a degree that many have not realised,” he said.

“Our business will undergo a similarly radical transformation as has happened in media, retail and consumer electronics.” Describing digitisation as a “game-changer”, Mr Mueller announced that VW Group would open three “future centres” in Europe, America and Asia “ where designers and digital experts will work hand in hand to develop the car of the future”.

Repeating the company's commitment to bring 20 new electrified models to market globally by 2020, Mr Mueller predicted better charging times and driving ranges in the future.

He called on governments and the private sector to work together on EV charging infrastructure.

“Pure electric ranges of more than 500km are feasible by end of decade," he said. "The charging times will drop to just take the time of a coffee break, and in the long run, the electric car will cost less than a car with a combustion engine.

“Nevertheless this alone will not suffice. For electro-mobility to roll out more quickly, we now need politicians and businesses to join hands, particularly to build a charging infrastructure without gaps. This is the precondition to customers' trust growing in this technology. We need to walk the talk as time is pressing.” Mr Mueller also said the company would put far greater emphasis on autonomous technology, and he predicted that the group would bring the tech to market ahead of its competitors, with full autonomous vehicles on the roads by 2025.

During his speech, the covers came off the Phideon “four-door coupe” that will replace the ageing Phaeton sedan and eventually be offered with a plug-in hybrid electric drivetrain.

Volkswagen says it was developed in Germany with the assistance of its Chinese manufacturing partner, SAIC, adding that it can act as a “sports saloon” and a “chauffeur-driven limousine”.

Revealed in Geneva in range-topping 220kW 3.0 TSI 4Motion all-wheel drive guise, the Phideon is the first Volkswagen-badged model to use the Group's MLB (Modular Longitudinal Matrix) platform that underpins the new-generation Audi Q7, A4 and forthcoming A8 as well as the Bentley Bentayga.

It will be powered by a pair of petrol engines – no diesel powertrain will be made available – including the 220kW/440Nm 3.0-litre V6 and a 2.0-litre four-cylinder TSI engine from front-wheel drive variants, while a yet-to-be-detailed plug-in hybrid version is also planned.

The Phideon – a name that “phonetically and symbolically evokes Fides, the Roman goddess of fidelity” – measures 5050mm long, 1870mm wide and 1480mm tall with a wheelbase exceeding 3000mm, giving it similar dimensions to that of the Australian-built Holden Caprice.

In terms of design, the Phideon carries a similar look to that of the Phaeton that it replaces, but brings more modern lines, a sleeker front end with new LED headlights integrated into the grille, a design element the company says will end up on future high-end sedans.

A character line is evident on the side profile, the alloy wheels are taken from the C Coupe GTE concept from last year's Shanghai motor.

Chrome highlights are featured front and rear, while tail-lights are LED, sitting above stainless-steel tail-pipes.

Inside, the five-seater features the usual luxuries - a lounge-like atmosphere as well as a dashboard and cabin architecture focussed on “technical design and driving dynamics”.

It also has air suspension, five selectable driving modes, electric soft-closing doors, head-up display, a camera-based night vision system warning of people or animals on or near the road even in pitch-black darkness or fog, a surround-view monitor, adaptive cruise control, park assist, a range of active safety features and access to Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink.

The Phaeton was launched in 2002 and went on sale in Europe, the United States and China. US sales stopped in 2006 due to low take-up.

Marketed as a rival to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS, the Phaeton has undergone two major facelifts since launch with production finally ending this month ahead of the roll out of the Phideon.

VW announced in October last year – shortly after the diesel emissions cheating scandal started unfolding – that the Phaeton replacement would be electrified.

More reveals are expected from Volkswagen overnight, including a crossover concept that previews a sub-Tiguan production model.

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