The Man Who Saved the Porsche 911 From Oblivion Has Died

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
the man who saved the porsche 911 from oblivion has died

It’s kind of difficult to imagine if you aren’t old enough to remember, but there was a period in the 1980s when the Porsche 911 was almost removed from the automotive landscape. In 1979, Porsche had made plans to replace the 911 with the new 928. The working logic was that the 911 was too quirky, impractical, and a bit of a handful. Porsche executives figured it just made good sense to swap it with something that had a broader appeal, especially as the company’s finances weren’t looking particularly robust at the time.

However, in 1981, Porsche AG found itself with a new chief executive — a German-born American named Peter Schutz. And he was having absolutely none of that nonsense.

“The decision to keep the 911 in the product line occurred one afternoon in the office of Dr. Helmuth Bott, the Porsche operating board member responsible for all engineering and development,” Schutz said in Tony Corlett’s Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera: The Last of the Evolution.

“I noticed a chart on the wall of Professor Bott’s office. It depicted the ongoing development schedules for the three primary Porsche product lines: 944, 928 and 911. Two of them stretched far into the future, but the 911 program stopped at the end of 1981. I remember rising from my chair, walking over to the chart, taking a black marker pen, and extending the 911 program bar clean off the chart. I am sure I heard a silent cheer from Professor Bott, and I knew I had done the right thing. The Porsche 911, the company icon, had been saved, and I believe the company was saved with it.”

Other accounts of that meeting are far more confrontational, but the point is that the decision to keep the 911 essentially came down to one man’s gut reaction. Schutz said he was keenly aware that employee morale was exceptionally low in the early 80s and attributed it to the impending death of the 911.

Porsche brass also intended to field the 928 in 1981’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race they knew they couldn’t win with the car they had. Schutz stipulated that they needn’t bother if they didn’t plan on winning. As a result, the modified 928s were scrapped and the company retrofitted three 936s that were sitting in the corporate museum. Porsche won that year.

The rest of Peter’s tenure as CEO revolved around improving the 911, solving Porsche quality control issues, and developing the legendary 959. The company’s worldwide sales grew from around 28,000 units in 1980 to 53,000 units in 1986. A drop in sales the following year resulted in Schutz being replaced by Heinz Branitzki in 1987. But that doesn’t matter; CEO’s aren’t made to last. The second a company hits a slump, it’s suddenly in the market for new blood — someone to save the company. And saving Porsche is exactly what Schutz did.

German automotive website GTSpirit reported that Peter Schutz passed away over the weekend at the ripe old age of 87. We can’t imagine what Porsche would look like today without him.

[Image: Porsche]

Join the conversation
8 of 18 comments
  • Asdf Asdf on Nov 02, 2017

    The 911 does have quite an uncertain future these days as well, because it represents an anomaly in Porsche's lineup. Porsche is an SUV manufacturer now, and the 911 is not an SUV, so it's logical that it's only a matter of time before it's axed.

    • See 5 previous
    • Tele Vision Tele Vision on Nov 02, 2017

      @Asdf Your theorem is interesting. Absolute dross, but interesting in that someone actually thinks as such.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Nov 04, 2017

    Drove a 993 recently. No radiator, C4S. I grew up with the 911 mystique but had never the chance to experience it. My peeps growing up had big Murican engines, not German sewing machines. Wow.. The car drives via mental telepathy. At some point, hammering out of a corner while preparing to brake for the next, I realized where I'd had this experience before....Go karts...the 911 is a Go Kart for Grownups. The wuffle of the flat six is intoxicating and you want to hear more of it. I'm told the air cooled 993 is "the last" one, and used values tend to agree...60k for a 20 year old car ? If/when I drive a modern version, will I be sad ?

  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.
  • MaintenanceCosts "Rural areas hardly noticed COVID at all."I very much doubt that is true in places like the Navajo Nation or the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, some of which lost 2% or more of their population to COVID.No city had a death rate in the same order of magnitude.Low-density living is a very modern invention. Before cars, people, even in agricultural areas, needed to live densely to survive.
  • Wjtinfwb Always liked these MN12 cars and the subsequent Lincoln variant. But Ford, apparently strapped for resources or cash, introduced these half-baked. Very sophisticated chassis and styling, let down but antiquated old pushrod engines and cheap interiors. The 4.6L Modular V8 helped a bit, no faster than the 5.0 but extremely smooth and quiet. The interior came next, nicer wrap-around dash, airbags instead of the mouse belts and refined exterior styling. The Supercharged 3.8L V6 was potent, but kind of crude and had an appetite for head gaskets early on. Most were bolted to the AOD automatic, a sturdy but slow shifting gearbox made much better with electronic controls in the later days. Nice cars that in the right color, evoked the 6 series BMW, at least the Thunderbird did. Could have been great cars and maybe should have been a swoopy CLS style sedan. Pretty hard to find a decent one these days.