The Phaeton triggered Volkswagen's shift from a platform strategy to modular development, said Werner Wilhelm, program manager for the luxury car.
When the Phaeton project started in 1998, the development team discussed the program for about six months before deciding that a platform approach was not workable, he said.
'The customer has to feel that no part comes from another car,' said Wilhelm. 'The second point is that no platform was good enough for this car.'
So new systems were designed for the Phaeton. The team started with a list of features and technical systems considered necessary to 'develop the best car in the luxury class.'
'We think it means harmony, solidity, supremacy and silence,' Wilhelm said.
One goal was a car that inspired good feelings, 'so that when the customer leaves the car, he runs his eye along the car and says goodbye,' he said.
For example, the double Xenon light from Hella, is 'the best in the market,' he said.
Volkswagen says the Phaeton has the most rigid body in the upper luxury segment, and the most powerful braking system. Chassis and drivetrain have been laid out for a maximum speed of 300kph.
Quietness is a key luxury feature.
'I went out to the desert with a colleague and said to him, 'Listen, you hear nothing,'' said Wilhelm. 'That is what we want, we want silence.'
The Phaeton development process was 'totally different' from previous cars, he said. The work was concentrated in VW's Simultaneous Engineering Center in Wolfsburg, Germany. For the Passat and Golf programs, inputs came from around the world.
The VW team in Wolfsburg worked directly with 30 to 40 engineers from 15 to 20 key suppliers. They included Continental Teves for the suspension, Peguform for the instrument panel and Johnson Controls for the seats.
Very little of the Phaeton is carried over from other VW group models, said Wilhelm.
'I think 400 screws, and the engine started in series production on an Audi,' he said. 'Afterwards we had the opportunity to look at what technical systems can work in other cars.'
Phaeton parts will appear in the new Bentley mid-sized model, the VW Touareg and the next-generation Audi A8.