Porsche: The Maus That Roared

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

Porsche is my favorite automotive brand for one reason: they make my favorite sports car. They do not, however, make my favorite SUV. Infiniti's FX45 is more fun to drive, Land Rover's LR3 is more capable, their Range Rover is more luxurious and when it comes to carrying a crew, Lincoln's Blingigator is the bomb. Sure, the Cayenne Turbo is the world's fastest SUV. And? Aside from dubious relevance, I reckon the debut of the glacial V6 Cayenne cancels-out the accomplishment. But the worst thing about the Cayenne is that it's subsidized Porsche's plan to take over the Volkswagen Group.

This morning, Porsche AG announced it will raise its stake in the Volkswagen Group from five to 20 percent. So much for the Sultans of Stuttgart's claim that they were buying VW stock to ensure access to parts and platforms for future Porsche models. The real motivation behind Porsche's land grab is the same as it ever was: power. More specifically, Porsche's Machiavellian machinations are a real world version of one of those Jeffery Archer-style family sagas, involving genetics, greed and history. Just for fun, here's the plot line:

Ferdinand Porsche made his bones building the "people's car" for Adolph Hitler. As co-general manager of Volkswagen's Wolfsburg factory (along with a Nazi administrator), the Austrian engineer used his considerable design and manufacturing skills to build jeeps, tanks and other weaponry for the German war effort. After the war, the Allies stripped Herr Porsche of his power within Volkswagen (it might have had something to do with Ferdy's willingness to use slave labor). Aided by his son Ferry, financed by a royalty on the Beetle, Ferdinand founded the sports car company that bears his name. Fast forward fifty years…

Following a few decades of Porsche ups and downs and some maneuverings over at Vee Dub, Ferry Porsche's nephew Ferdinand Piech ascended to the Chairmanship of the Volkswagen Group's Board of Directors. And there he stayed, inflicting his autocratic style on the mammoth conglomerate, gathering car brands like a 5th Avenue matron collects Manolo Blahniks, watching VW's US market share swirl 'round the toilet. Two weeks ago, after 13 years on the Group's board (most of it as CEO), Piech finally agreed to step down. Not so coincidentally, his decision cleared the way for today's news: Porsche to assume two seats on the Volkswagen Group's board.

The effect of all this Dallas-style plotting on the Volkswagen Group is not my main concern. Piech's plans for world dominance– such as matching Mercedes model for model– hasn't exactly turned out as planned. (Phaeton anyone?) Now that slave labor isn't the done thing, I'm happy letting the free market determine the wisdom of a Porsche-controlled Volkswagen Group. But I am worried about the fate of the Porsche brand. What will happen to my preferred sports car provider as it becomes more and more deeply enmeshed in Volkswagen Group politics?

In fact, Porsche has already sacrificed its soul to its corporate ambitions. Lest we forget, the Cayenne was originally "sold" to skeptical Porsche-philes as a way for the company to fund development of future sports cars– a story which now has a very different ending. Indeed, if the Porsche family's hunger to reclaim Ferdy's legacy wasn't so strong, would the Cayenne have even been built? Given that Porsche's SUV was developed in close cooperation with Volkswagen, given that the same will apply to the forthcoming Panamera, it's clear that this Porsche – Volkswagen nexus is already heavily influencing the type and character of Porsche's products. Where will it stop?

Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti brands were once independent, high-end automakers. Setting aside questions about significant product overlap (an issue which has not troubled the Volkswagen Group since it began its buying binge), why wouldn't a Porsche-controlled Volkswagen simply add Porsche to their corporate portfolio? Members of the Porsche clan who own shares in the family firm would become wealthy beyond their wildest dreams– unless, of course, this has been their dream all along.

If Porsche loses its independence, the sports car lover's best interests would not be well served (a sentiment Porsche has been expressing for as long as I can remember). As part of the Volkswagen Group, any decision regarding Porsche's product development would have to be made in relation to the rest of the group's needs, within the context of the existing bureaucracy. In other words, Porsche's design, engineering and marketing choices would be controlled by, gulp, committees. What's worse, Porsche's current path away from highly-focused manufacturer of sports cars, towards performance-oriented multi-genre automaker, would surely accelerate.

I firmly believe that Porsche should make the world's best sports cars, and that's it. I find it incredibly sad that one of the few automakers that never lost its focus, has. As far as the enthusiast community is concerned, Porsche's incestuous relationship with the Volkswagen Group makes the Cayenne look even more like the beginning of the end. Again, still, I hope I'm wrong.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Dr Mindbender Dr Mindbender on May 01, 2023

    Found this article...and would like to give a 16-year update to the concerns proffered by the author.

    I started into the Porsche Understanding in 2018, when we bought our first one. Yes, it was a Cayenne. The love that we developed for our Cayenne led us to our second Porsche, a first-gen Boxster. From there we then moved past coincidence to being intentional, and got our third Porsche, another Cayenne! This one was a 2013 Turbo, and upgrade from our 2008 S.

    Here's what happened to VW...The Porsche family has done a magnificent job managing the branding and cross-pollination of technology and shared platforms! They scoop up Audi and while scaling back the VW offerings in the US (no saving that market share), they manage to rule the luxury SUV market with shared chassis amongst Porsche, Audi, and VW. Bugatti takes the W12 to unimaginable places and is essentially independent. Lambo continues completely unaffected, until they cash in on the SUV thing and build one on the Cayenne platform. They trade Nurburgring lap records back and forth with Porsche and Bentley for many years. Porsche is kept on the ultimate pedestal, and it is plainly obvious that the Porsche family puts the Porsche brand FIRST in the group. Zero cannibalization, massive moneymaker, motorsport dominating. They go on to spin off the Porsche brand in a massively successful IPO with the focus of the brand squarely showing in the new ticker symbol, proud and loud: 911. I haven't seen a more successful brand grow to prominence since the 50s. Porsche stays in the top 10 in performance, satisfaction, luxury, reliability, motorsport. VW pulls out of the US except for a few US specific models, like the Atlas SUV but dominates sales in Europe and China. VAG goes on to become number one seller by units sold, OUS.

    Bentley and Bugatti took the doomed-but-amazing W12 and made massively luxurious GTs and (gasp) SUVs (Bentley), and insanely fast, always-sold-out hypercars (Bugatti) that cost MILLIONS. You heard that correctly: Bugatti sells cars for MILLIONS that use a VW engine! The Bentley GT 2 door outsells the Bentayga in California by a lot, and shares a platform with the Porsche Panamera; no lack of luxury or performance, no mediocre branded skins. The GT also races in endurance racing in GT3 and GT4 guise, so no pooh-poohing the racing heritage of either brand. They both look untouched by VAG and most people don't even know they're VWs.

    Audi and Porsche continue a partnership that resembles their motorsport teamwork; they share SUV platforms, offering slightly more accessible pricing with the Audis, and maximizing performance with the Porsche Cayenne and Macan. The platforms are Porsche-first, and well-distinguished. The Porsches do not disappoint, with the Cayenne taking Nurburgring lap records with ease while still LITERALLY being nearly as capable as a JEEP, let alone capable as a 6000lb Range Rover in sand, mud, and even rock crawling. People go on to create a massive off-road community around the Cayenne and Touareg, and even have welcomed in overlanding Audi Q7s. Porsches are always regarded as the best-handling and most fun (by a LOT) of all the SUVs. All of them, ALL of the time. The Cayenne is BY FAR the most capable SUV ON THE MARKET. On, and off road. The Cayenne goes on to win the Transsyberia Rally three years in a row, so YES, even the Cayenne stays true to Porsche form, and WINS RACES. Porsche and Audi go on to share a revolutionary, massively high performance electric platform as well.

    Porsche goes on to make the fastest production car year after year with insanely beautiful editions of the 911, Turbo S, and one of the most revered automobiles in the world, the GT3 and insanely fast GT2 versions. They go on to collect endurance racing titles, year after year. They put out the most beautiful, advanced, analog Carrera GT using Cayenne money, and go on to make the 918 Spyder; again, taking the Nurburgring record, smashing it, and holding the new one for years after with a masterpiece of a hypercar using a hybrid drivetrain. Their cars continue to enthrall, satisfy the most demanding purists, win races, break records, and introduce new technology like performance hybrid drivetrains, and the freakishly potent DPK transmission...then go on to satisfy purists by selling a GT3 with no wing and a manual transmission. Porsche also instantly sells out all specialty models of the 911, and even the Boxster! Spyders, Speedsters, Classic Editions, GT4, Weissach Packages, you're lucky to get an allocation.

    Porsche has lost NOTHING and the family has done a stellar job directing the overall VAG company...except for dieselgate, but they're making amends on that one. They have truly brought Porsche into modern, mainstream automotive markets, and have lost nothing in regards to heritage or building the ultimate road (and off-road) machines.

  • Doc423 Doc423 on May 01, 2023

    Great 16 year review. I have had a 911 for several years and finally bit the bullet and bought a Cayenne Turbo, now I can't decide which one I like driving better.

  • Carson D I hadn't seen a second-generation Courier with a Mazda engine before. I've seen a few with Ford engines. There was one at the Cox Driving Range that they used to collect golf balls. Golf would definitely be more entertaining to watch if they used moving targets.
  • Tassos ooops, Tim, you missed this one. Would make a lovely "Tim's used car of the day". It satisfies all the prerequisites except the wildly overpriced bit.
  • Tassos ASTON AND BOND BY A MILE. While Aston Martin sells a TINY FRACTION of what even the rarified Ferrari and Lambo sell, it is unbelievably well known. Credit the idiotic, but hugely successful and sometimes entertaining James Bond Movies.
  • Tassos 1988? Too young for me. It's all yours, Tim... BAHAHAHAHA!
  • Gray Awesome. Love these. But, if I had the money for a Fox-body, there is a clean '84 GT 350 here for little more than half the price.