Remember 2000? It was the start of a new decade and besides the dreaded Y2K debacle, the dot com bubble and a shit load of other stuff that happens when you stick a bunch of zero’s on the end of a number, things seemed pretty quiet in the world of Porsche. Think about it; they only had two cars. The Carrera, with its less than dozen variants, and the Boxster, which had: two. The automotive winds were changing, but if you visited the Porsche headquarters in Zuffenhausen, it was probably like a time warp.
you had two choices in 2000, a Boxster...
or a 911.
One can assume though that under the surface, there were probably major rumblings going on. Case in Point: the Cayenne that would be launched three years down the road; viewed from the outside, however, HQ was like a ripple-free pond. Still, the powers-that-be knew Porsche could not continue with just two cars. The market would not allow it. They had to grow, they had to expand the brand to attract and keep new buyers—not just their traditional buyer who thinks Porsche is a sports car with two doors and an engine hung out back behind the rear axle where God and Ferry Porsche intended it.
"In other words, they had to grow up and move beyond that small barnyard in Gmund ‘cause one rear engine sports car ain’t gonna do it anymore."
Long time Porsche fans (i.e. the Air-cooled legion), demanded the status quo, namely that Porsche keep things simple. They wanted Porsche to stay the same, fondly remembering the company that existed in the 50’s and 60’s, maybe even into the 70’s, but without those silly side adventures with the 928 and 924/944/968 (you know those “front engine’d things”). Just make sports cars, just win races with cars so fast and reliable other manufacturers quivered at the thought of going up against Zuffenhausen. And for that group of diehards, the term ‘just make sports cars’ probably meant the 911, because the Boxster did not count as a real Porsche anyway. Funny enough, some still persist with that thought.
So it’s 2015 and a lot has changed: Dot Com went to Dot Bomb. Sept 11. Two wars. A housing bubble. Economic downturn. For Porsches, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that things went well, profits exploded and for a very brief time, the Porsche brain trust (who had maybe drunk a little bit too much of their own Kool-Aid or maybe Kirsch, but whatever, it had to be cherry flavored), thought they could buy VW. Wow, the stones it took to cook up that plan! And you know what? They came fairly close to doing it too. Of course when the financial crisis of 2008 hit, it swept away those dreams like so many wisps of smoke from a cold morning exhaust. Those guys, all gone and VW now owns Porsche. Funny how the best laid plans go sideways on you sometimes, you know like thinking you can brake in the middle of a corner in a 930. Lemme know how that works out.
Now Porsche has to fit within an overarching brand strategy. Their cars are the sharp tip of the VW spear. The image car, the dream car (OK, not including the Veyron here as that car is WAY over the top), Porsche is the car that people aspire to. That meant adding even more variants, more platforms and more choices to create the perfect, balanced brand. Have you taken a look at the Porsche web site configurator lately? There’s the 911 Carrera, the Boxster, the Cayman, the Cayenne, the Macan, the Panamera and just to hold down the top, the 918. Seven different models and the permutations on all those cars are endless.
You see Porsche had to change. Had to! They had to bring in new buyers from different geographies (for instance the Cayenne and Panamera are best sellers in the Middle East and Asia). They had to grow their brand and business, and, they had be profitable. In other words, they had to grow up and move beyond that small barnyard in Gmund ‘cause one rear engine sports car ain’t gonna do it anymore.
And on that exhaust note, see you all next time. image sources: http://www.wemotor.com/Robert Turner is the author of The Driver, a series of six novels your editor in chief finds intoxicatingly engaging and superbly written; Book I— Decision and Book II— Training are currently available here. He also has a blog entitled My Life with Porsches. Robert can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.