Quo Vadis, Porsche?...
Coincidentally (or not?!), 1993 was also the year when Wendelin Wiedeking stepped at the helm of the ailing sports car maker. From 1993 to 2008, he proceeded on a complete make-over, transforming the little Swabian company in the most profitable car maker in the world. After getting rid of the 968 money-pit, Wiedeking first agreed on the Boxster platform to receive the "go!" button.
The newly (then) introduced mid-engine roadster soon became a hit, but Wendelin didn't stop there, introducing the most talked-about 911-generation in history – the 996 series. It was the first ever 911 without an air-cooled flat-six in the rear, the first 911 with headlights that had a shape other than round or oval and the first 911 with a center console that doesn't make you puke your gust out.
Years passed and at the end of the 1990s it became apparent that the luxury SUV market was getting ready for a boom in sales, so Wiedeking started writing quite a few letters to the other car maker from Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz had just successfully-launched the first generation of the M-Klasse and Porsche also wanted a piece of the action; without investing the necessary millions in developing a model from the ground-up, naturally.
Noblesse oblige. Mercedes-Benz refused letting Porsche get rich by making a frog-like M-Klasse; although they had previous mildly-successful engagements. This made Wiedeking a bit furious apparently, so he turned to Volkswagen, who already had the Touareg on the drawing board. About five-years later, Porsche launched the VW Touareg-based Cayenne, which practically changed the way people think about the "S" in SUV.
Concomitantly, the Cayenne became the most hated and the best sold Porsche in history. Another seven years onward, the first-ever Porsche sedan was preparing to make its entrance, while the company itself was getting ready to swallow the biggest car-maker in Europe, Volkswagen. You can either hate or like Wendelin Wiedeking for what he did with Porsche in the last fifteen years, but the truth is he did more good than bad.
Do you guys know how many cars the tiny sports car maker was manufacturing when Wiedeking became its CEO? A little less than 20,000 units per year. Not to mention the fact that it wasn't heading anywhere else but certain bankruptcy.
Well, now you should multiply those sales figures by... let's say about ten or so and you can get a pretty good picture of Wiedeking's work at Porsche in the last decade. Sure, drastically increasing sales for a niche manufacturer aren't that much of a good news for brand purists who are also on the lookout for exclusivity, but at the same time higher sales can only mean a better overall health for the company. The single most profitable car company in the world is also no mean feat.
The problem is that Wiedeking also showed everyone that famous old-saying: "The bigger they are, the harder they fall". Right when Porsche was about to hit it big by swallowing the mighty Volkswagen AG, disaster struck. They ran out of money. In a a blink of an eye, Porsche was back in the deep doo doo it was fifteen years ago.
Solution to the problem? Well, there's two of them apparently. First one is "off with their heads!", meaning Wendelin Wiedeking will step down from the company's helm. Second one also has the biggest impact when talking about Porsche's future. What is effectively called a "merger", Volkswagen will technically swallow Porsche, thus reversing the whole "little fish eats whale" scenario.
Is that good or bad? Well, it's both actually, for a number of reasons. Porsche under the VW umbrella first of all means more internal competition between the brands, since it wasn't enough already. I can foresee a lot of intense sales matches between the Audi R8 and most of the Porsche 911 derivatives, while the Cayman/Boxster isn't exactly the best neighbor to the Audi TT coupe and roadster high-end range.
Of course, internal competition between brands and/or models isn't quite a first for Volkswagen, so let's say that's not such a bad thing after all. On the other hand, a Golf-engined entry-level Porsche might drive a lot of purist fans away from the brand. Keeping this thought in mind, where do you see Porsche in 10-15 years? Remember, until last week, this was technically the last self-owned sports car manufacturer in the world.