Published in the July 2016 issue of “Die Porsche Kassette”
Porsche is probably the most criticized success story in the world!
Let me explain why I say that .
In 1948 Ferdinand Porsche introduced the first production sportscar, with his name as the brand: The Porsche 356. Designed by his Son Ferry, it was not an overnight sensation. It took Porsche 2 years to manufacture and sell 50 cars, but by the early 50s the 356 had gained a following, especially by enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic because of it’s design, build quality and aerodynamics.
The 356 evolved and got refined throughout the years. It was offered in different iterations: 356A, 356B, 356C with air-cooled, flat-4 motors ranging from 1,100 cc to 2,000 cc, initially borrowed from the VW Beetle, mounted behind the rear axle (except for the prototype, No. 1, which had a mid-engine layout). Speedsters, Coupes and Cabriolets all sported the 356 designation.
Even with all the success, in 1963 Porsche announced that it would phase out the 356 and replace it with the 901. Only 82 cars were badged as 901s because of a trademark dispute with Peugeot, and the 901 became the 911.
Porsche marketed the 911 as a larger, more practical version of the 356. It also had a pair of rear seats.
Critics were quick to pounce on its lack of focus.
The 911 continued with the engine behind the rear axle, but instead of the flat-4 engine, Porsche opted to install a more powerful flat-6 in the new platform.
This added almost 50% more cost to the car which made the acceptance of the 911 somewhat slow at first.
This drastic price increase drew quite a bit of criticism.
Concerned that the increase in price of the 911 with the 6 cylinder engine would substantially hurt sales, Porsche introduced an entry level 4 cylinder model dubbed the 912 immediately after the end of production of the 356 (in 1965). Initially, the 912 outsold the 911, boosting total production until the 911 gained its assured success.
The 912 was short-lived because of the 911’s success and in 1969 Porsche announced that the new entry-level model would be the 914 which had been designed collaboratively between VW and Porsche.
This new platform had been originally intended to be sold as a VW (replacing the Karmann Ghia) with a flat-4, and as a Porsche (entry level) with a flat-6. The 914 was a mid-engined, targa-topped, two-seater
When the 914 hit the market it was not considered a (real) Porsche by most enthusiasts!
Because of an internal feud between VW and Porsche, after the death of VW’s CEO (Heinz Nordhoff in April, 1968) and the appointment of the new one (Kurt Lotz, which was not part of the Porsche clan) VW refused to share with Porsche it’s tooling for the 914 and the price of the 914-6 ended up being just slightly less that the 911. The 914-6 sold quite poorly, while the less expensive 914-4 became Porsche’s best seller during its model run outselling the 911 by a very wide margin with almost 120,000 units worldwide.
In 1976 the Porsche 924 replaced the 914 as the company’s entry-level model. It had been a joint project between VW and Porsche. In production terms, it was the first Porsche model powered by a non-flat, water-cooled, front-mounted engine, with an automatic transmission as an option!
Needless to say, die-hard Porsche fans felt betrayed!
The 924 platform which had a 2.0L and then a 2.5L in-line 4 was developed into the 944 with 2.5L, 2.7L , 3.0L and 2.5L turbo power plants successively.
Eventually this platform turned into the 968.
In 1993 at the Detroit Auto Show, Porsche unveiled the Boxster Prototype. It got a very favorable response and in 1996 they announced that the Boxster would go into production as a new entry-level model, the 986. The company went back to its roots by offering a rag-top, mid-engined, two-seater, flat-6 but the die-hard fans of the 911 (by now designated as the 993) were quick to point out that this could not be a “real” Porsche since it was water-cooled!
Eventually the 986 Boxster turned out to be the car that physically saved Porsche from financial collapse. The 986 evolved into the 987 then into the 981 and now into the 718 and also spawned the Cayman which appeared in 2006.
But the criticism of the company didn’t stop there.
In 2002 (2003 in the US) Porsche became a truck (SUV) manufacturer [big collective GASP!] with the introduction of the Cayenne.
Porsche no longer would be exclusively a sports car manufacturer as it had been since inception and for the previous 54 years. Then in 2009 Porsche announced the 970, a luxury, full-sized, 4-door, front-engined (V6 or V8, or hybrid), 4,000 lb sedan known as the Panamera.
What is this world coming to?
Real Porsche cars should only have 2 doors!
In 2013 Porsche expanded it’s model line with yet another SUV. This time with a smaller but turbo-charged Macan ...
... but the latest one is the “ultimate betrayal” to it’s die-hard fans:
Porsche sports cars will no longer have a flat-6, normally aspirated engine, as God intended!
It was recently announced that all Boxsters, Caymans and eventually Carreras will be exclusively powered by four cylinder turbos.
As you have read in the article, Porsche has been very criticized throughout it’s history. But coldly analyzing those criticized decisions as a Monday morning quarterback, they have been spot on!
• The 911, criticized for its lack of focus, became the most iconic car in history
•The 914-6 is today a highly sought after model of a “pure sportscar”
•The 924/944/968 platforms are lovingly restored, driven and raced worldwide
•The Boxster became the car that saved Porsche, now 20 years in production
•The Cayenne was Porsche’s best-seller until last year
•The Panamera has been another Porsche success story
•The Macan now became Porsche’s best selling model
•The jury is still out on killing the flat-6*
(*) This is my attempt at sarcasm ... maybe.
That one really hurt. What were they thinking? ;)
For more information on Porsche’s model history and more, please visit my website:
Ⓒ2016 Technolab / PedrosGarage.com