VW, W Hotels link up for Phaeton promo

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Volkswagen of America and Starwood Hotels & Resorts' W Hotels today begin a co-branding initiative centered on VW's Phaeton, the automaker's first entry into the luxury-sedan class.

Called "Get Behind the Wheel," the promotion puts seven Phaetons at W Hotel properties in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco for use by guests as complimentary shuttle service, in conjunction with events for VIPs and test-drives by potential customers.

The promotion runs through Feb. 5 and is being handled by Arnold Brand Promotions, a unit of Havas' Arnold Worldwide, Boston, Volkswagen's creative agency. A small, undisclosed ad outlay will consist of direct mail and Volkswagen-owner custom publishing communications, along with advertising of the partnership in select publications.

`think big'

Separately, Arnold is handling the $25 million campaign for the Phaeton, including TV and print. One ad is said to play off Volkswagen's famous "Think Small" ad for the Beetle from 1962. This one will read "Think Big," and include a photograph of the Phaeton that dominates the page.

Volkswagen will provide special test-drive invitations to be distributed to select W guests in-room. W, in turn, will offer a special Phaeton promotion/rate package to preferred guests along with its brand marketing support, both on property and externally.

"When I first read about the Phaeton and got my pre-production preview, it seemed like a perfect fit," said Ross Klein, VP-marketing, W Hotels. "There's certainly a different sight and a touch and a sound to it. It's similar to what we do."

`philosophical alignment'

The Phaeton will be available at 600 U.S. dealerships later this month. The car sports a chair massager and individually air-conditioned seats, and will compete with Lexus, BMW, Audi and other luxury sedans. It is expected to cost in the $60,000 range, hence the promotion with W Hotels, another high-end marketer.

"As we approached the luxury segment, we thought it was a natural brand fit between Volkswagen and the W," said John Gasloli, brand marketing manager for Volkswagen of America, Auburn Hills, Mich. "There was a real philosophical alignment in terms of design, the human element and the human experience."

Volkswagen needs a big push in the U.S. market with Phaeton. Only 5,200 have been sold in Europe since it was launched there in May of 2002, according to the company. Moreover, the automaker announced last week that its net profit dropped 51% in the third quarter from a year ago due to flat sales, the cost of launching new models-including the Phaeton and the Toureg-and a restructuring in Brazil.

contributing: jean halliday

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