Sometime around 1990, I bought my first car that wasn't strictly a British roadster -- a sapphire blue 1981 BMW 320i. You'd be surprised how naked a bottom-of-the-line BMW was back then.
A dozen years and 100,000 miles later, a heartless coworker dubbed my baby -- by then, three or four subtle twists on gray -- The Cairo Taxi (no emails from Egypt, please), and it looked the part. All I lacked was a rack to mount the machine gun on top.
I loved that car (since passed on to my cousin TJ and summarily squashed into a cube). When I was a boy, the 320i was a favorite among the cooler of the rich dads. I think particularly of the orange ones. I mention this today, because I read in Forbes that Volkswagen, of all people, just released a $70,000 luxury sedan. What in world?
According to a spokesman: "[The] Phaeton is for people who have wealth but don't want to show it, who want a German luxury sedan without the pretense of the namebadge."
Clearly, that's a shot at BMW and DaimlerChrysler's
Are you kidding me?
Clearly, VW is playing us. Then again, here we have a transnational corporation entertaining the notion that there are consumers who can -- but are a bit shamed to -- pay that kind of money for a car. This, at a time when the Hollywood jet set is abandoning Hummers for hybrids! These can't be bad things.
As for VW, the spokesman goes on to admit that, in addition to helping the bashful rich blend in, the new supercar "will elevate the VW brand image." Now, that's more like it. Though frankly I doubt it (heck, I think VW's image is fine just the way it is).
Here's a thought: If you have wealth but don't want to show it, how about not plunking down 70 grand for a 420 horsepower monster that gets 15 miles to the gallon? Even if it's not a BMW.
Paul Elliott is editor of Tom Gardner's Motley Fool Hidden Gems and can be reached at