Porsche's Off-Message Models Axed in VW TakeoverBy Michelle Krebs August 31, 2009
Get a good look at the Porsche Cayenne SUV. In the wake of the bizarre German corporate soap opera whose end will soon see the absorption of Porsche AG into the mighty Volkswagen Group, the controversial Cayenne -- and even more astoundingly, the just-released Panamera four-door sport sedan -- has no future after VW takes over.
Such is the report from Britain's Car magazine, which says a "massive U-turn in Porsche's product plan" resulting from the bitter VW boardroom triumph means Porsche will be forced to discontinue the Cayenne and Panamera after their product cycles are complete around seven years from now.
"VW Group has plenty of SUVs and saloons [sedans] -- it doesn't need Porsche to build them," says the story, which should be music to the ears of Porsche faithful and critics who insist the tiny sports-carmaker did potentially irreparable harm to its brand by pasting the Porsche badge onto heavyweight off-roaders and sedans.
But all isn't totally jolly for those hoping for complete restoration of Porsche's independence and uniqueness. Under the seemingly more brand-protecting plan of VW chairman Ferdinand Piech, Porsche will get back to making only sports cars -- but probably will be sharing at least one platform with a future VW.
Piech fought back viciously against the improbable but almost-executed plan of now-ousted Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking for tiny Porsche to grab control of VW. Now that he's won and Wiedeking -- the architect of Porsche's off-message forays into massive SUVs and sedans -- has been forced out, VW and its board, led by Piech, will be calling the shots. And Piech, an intensely product-focused engineer, seems to be intent on unraveling Wiedeking's initiatives to expand Porsche beyond two-door sports cars.
But that doesn't mean Porsche won't be expanding at all. Car reports that the brand might use a version of VW's in-development Modular Sportscar Structure (MSS) for a future midengine, entry-level model below the current Boxster/Cayman that would be the spiritual successor to the first Porsche, the 356. Volkswagen's vision of a lightweight and comparatively affordable midengine roadster already has been previewed with the Bluesport concept, although that car is based on the underpinnings of the current Polo.
Porsche also reportedly will launch a new high-dollar supercar to follow up the Carrera GT, although VW watchers already have speculated endlessly about how the company that also owns Lamborghini, Bugatti and Audi AG -- all with vital products in the supercar segment -- will position a future Porsche entry into that league.
The backfiring fiscal overreach that almost brought VW under Porsche control isn't without certain non-product consequences. Qatar Holding LLC had planned to buy a hefty portion of Porsche to help the sports-carmaker out of the debt hole it dug in its aborted attempt to control VW, but instead hooked into a complex investment arrangement that will see the Qatar Emirate become VW's third-largest shareholder with about 17 percent of the company. The Qatar investment also will hold about 10 percent of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, Porsche holding company. Only the future will tell if the new investors plan to be of the "active" persuasion. -- Bill Visnic
Photos by manufacturers
1 - Volkswagen AG unveiled the Bluesport concept roadster at the 2009 Detroit Auto Show. The Bluesport could presage a new VW-developed modular component set that now might be leveraged for a more basic, more-affordable Porsche entry-level sports car. (Courtesy of Volkswagen of America Inc.)
2- Porsche's controversial Panamera is only now launching in Europe and the U.S., but the VW takeover reportedly means it will be dead after just one full product cycle. (Courtesy of Porsche Cars North America Inc.)