By on July 22, 2011

Every automaker is in this business to make money… there’s nothing surprising about that. But some are a little more focused on profits than others, and it should be equally unsurprising that Porsche is one of them. In an extensive interview with Automotive News Europe [sub], Porsche CEO Matthias Mueller gives a strong impression of how Porsche sees itself over the course of the first two questions:

What is your vision for Porsche in 2018?

Porsche is synonymous with sports cars – yesterday, today and doubtless tomorrow as well. In addition, in every other segment where we operate, such as with the Cayenne or Panamera, we always offer the sportiest vehicle. At the moment we are hard at work on our future strategy. And I promise you, it will contain a few exciting surprises.

What are your most important objectives?

We want to remain the world’s most profitable car manufacturer – and build on this position.

These are actually two separate goals altogether, and not two which necessarily go hand-in-hand. But if anyone can pull off the mix between performance and profit, it’s Porsche… and to understand how this strategy will play out in the near future, let’s take a look at Mueller’s product plans.

When asked about the greatest challenges facing Porsche’s product planning, Mueller notes

We will improve coordination between our model line product life cycles. Each year we want to celebrate a major event, namely bring a new Porsche to market. We are also revising and improving existing products and looking to see what would bolster Porsche’s image in terms of healthy growth.

By introducing a new “model” each year, Porsche keeps its hype-cycle rolling along without interruption from reliability studies, cynicism or challenges from competitors. The next big product to emerge from Zuffenhausen will be the next-generation 911 (991), and Porsche will make absolutely certain that this single model will sustain quite a few hype-cycles. How? Variants. Mueller explains:

With the 911, we are up to 22 derivatives. We use this as an example for the other models.

We’re already seeing this with the Boxster Spyder and Cayman R, which increase Porsche’s profitability immensely by charging a premium for relatively limited upgrades (and in some cases, equipment deletion in the name of “weight savings.” So, between increased profit and the PR and brand-awareness benefits of launching “new” models on a regular basis, expect Porsche to continue to slice-and-dice each nameplate into a plethora of mildly-varying “new” nameplates (think Speedster, GTS, Sport Classic, etcetera).

But when the flip side of this coin is that Porsche is actually looking at fewer derivatives of its Panamera platform for the simple reason that the sedan sells well, and the additional bodywork and development needed to turn a sedan into a coupe hurts the bottom line when compared with the low cost and high profit of mix-and-matching different 911 engines, transmissions and equipment (or the relatively low cost of adapting Audi’s Q5 CUV into the Porsche Cajun). When asked if a 928-style coupe or shooting brake could be based on the Panamera, Mueller answers

There are a lot of ideas out there. Our designers and engineers have fantastic ideas, like a two-door Panamera that makes even more of a coupe-like impression, and so on. We’re keeping all our options open. Currently, things are going so well with the Panamera that we’re not in any hurry…

I can as well very well imagine a long-wheelbase version, especially for growing markets such as China and Russia. We also think that a plug-in hybrid concept would fit well with the Panamera.

Stretching a sedan’s wheelbase and adding a larger battery and plug-in equipment is all relatively easy, and because such upgrades will play well in the not-especially-sports-car-friendly growth markets of China and Russia, that’s the priority. Further arguments for plug-in and hybrid developement: increasing emissions standards. Mueller notes

We are planning a hybrid concept in each model line. As already mentioned, we’re thinking about a plug-in hybrid variant of the Panamera. That would be the first of its kind in its premium sedan segment. With the 911, sportiness remains center stage. Thus we are planning a mild-hybrid variant (an automatic start-stop function) here at first.

Should it become apparent by 2020 that 20 percent of all new cars will already be electrically driven then you can take it that Porsche will also be challenging for 20 percent of its sales with electric vehicles. But I’m figuring on a total EV share closer to between 3 percent and 5 percent by 2020. We are now almost over the initial hype before the business has really got started. But we are not closing our minds to this development. If by 2050 a manufacturer’s average fuel consumption is not allowed to exceed 0.9 litres per 100 kilometers and the CO2 emissions per kilometer are at 20 grams then we have to prepare ourselves for this in good time.

Even when it comes to its highest-end supercar, Porsche thinks profit first. Mueller reveals that Porsche’s last hypercar, the Carrera GT, cost €120m to develop and implies that the forthcoming 918 Spyder will have a similar development cost, plus the additional cost of developing its hybrid drivetrain. And since the 918 will cost at least €600k and 918 models will be produced, Porsche’s looking at well over €550m in revenue from its range-topping hybrid hypercar (again, before hybrid drivetrain development).

But after the new 911, the LWB plug-in Panamera and the 918, Porsche may be facing its biggest profitability challenge yet in the form of “Project Mimo,” the long-rumored “baby Boxster.” That vehicle is said to be based on an architecture that could be shared with VW, but Mueller has more historical connotations to implant in the minds of consumers, calling it

a legitimate successor to the Porsche 550 – namely a small mid-engine sports car. Actually I couldn’t imagine a better name for a small roadster like that than the 550. But we’re just in the assessment phase.

And what are the competitors for this “modern 550”?

To be honest, very few. In another price bracket, there are models around such as the Mazda MX-5 with a segment share of just under 50 percent. We think that there is still a lot of room for Porsche and one VW sister model.

Competing at the Mazda Miata price point is going to be a huge challenge for Porsche, especially if there’s going to be a cheaper VW version keeping them honest. Of all the brand’s future plans, this is the one that seems most out of its current pattern of minimal development, maximum variation and premium pricing. It’s also the model that seems most intriguing. We’ll be curious to see if Porsche is able to add affordability to its values of sportiness and profitability.

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12 Comments on “Porsche: 22 911 Variants, LWB Panamera, “550 Spyder” Planned...”

  • avatar

    A two-door Panamera? Don’t they already have something like that in their lineup called the 911? Just wondering. Not a fan of the lineup bloat that they are planning for, but I guess there’s a sucker born every minute. It’s not 1983 anymore, and I can quit dreaming of that Guards Red SC…

  • avatar

    O.K., I give up. Is it some sort of requirement that all auto execs MUST have white hair?

    If Educator Dan ever gets restless and changes his brilliant avatar, I’ll have nothing to smile at when he posts!

  • avatar

    They could always return to the tractor business.

  • avatar

    I think they need the 550 to lure younger less affluent drivers to the family. Most Porsche owners tend to be loyal serial buyers. The folks buying all these 911 mutations probably started with a 356 or 912 in the 1960s but we are now starting to die out. They need something new to prime the pump for the 21st century. And that is not a used Porsche. Way to expensive to keep on the road.

  • avatar

    Interesting article. Ed writes “Competing at the Mazda Miata price point is going to be a huge challenge for Porsche, especially if there’s going to be a cheaper VW version keeping them honest.”

    From the comments from Mueller I took his reference to the MX-5 to be around size, not price. “And what are the competitors for this “modern 550″? To be honest, very few. In another price bracket, there are models around such as the Mazda MX-5 with a segment share of just under 50 percent.”

    Although his reference to 50% market share does make it ambiguous.
    I suppose the departed Honda S2000 would have been a competitor from a price and size perspective.

  • avatar

    Small open car, developed with VW, in the Miata’s price range…sounds like the 914, which, as we all know, worked out just fine.

  • avatar

    Every automaker is in business to make money…but when it looks like that is your predominant goal, at the expense of product integrity at a brand where heritage is a large part of the appeal, it turns people off.

  • avatar

    Look closely at the badge that Mueller is pointing at in that photo. The letters used to say “Porsche” but that has been replaced with the slogan “There’s a sucker born every minute”.

  • avatar

    I am still waiting for the Cayman Spyder variant which will cost more ,less equipment and less functional. Any questions to the Porsche factory will be met with feeble heritage stories and explanation of the .2 liter engine different performance envelope from the Boxster.

  • avatar

    Edward, best reread that. He’s not claiming that they’re going to try and match the Miata’s price. Only that other price brackets exist. I can clearly picture the board of directors setting pricing on this: “The Miata starts at $23K. Our clients will pay 30% more for the same!” Boom: Base price, $29.9K. And make no mistake, they will soak the platform sharing for every dollar. It will be irresistible. They won’t make the 924-era mistake of using VW lights – not when unique one-model-only lights are so profitable at the parts counter – but the suspension, brakes, steering will all be sourced from VW. Plus the endless list of options. A retractable hardtop version is $4k from Mazda; I can’t imagine the profit wizards of Weissach offering such a thing for less than a 100% premium. I’m amazed that no one there has yet struck upon the idea of charging buyers for individual gauges above the legal minimum.

    Okay, rant mode off. Sorry. But I used to love Porsches; I dreamt of stumbing on a 904 in a barn somewhere, restoring it, and cheerfully turning down all offers while I prepared to blast up the hill at Goodwood. Now I just find the company’s actions despicable.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting to me how many of these posts are negative on porche. I must admit the gentleman’s comments in the article reveal a lot about their thought process. Up to this point I was pretty much clueless as to what the average person thought of today’s porche outside of the high cost to maintain.

    I like to drive and older model when I’m considering a new one. I drove a 3 or 4 yo boxter and it felt like it was falling apart. Then I found out how much oil changes cost. Not sure if it was feesable to do my own. After that I purchased an 8 yo miata that drove much better than that porche and I liked it a lot better than the new mx5’s . A new base MX5 can be had for 16 or 17k at that right time of year. I suspect the 550 will bomb given that.

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