Porsche keep­ing dif­fer­ent com­pany

Matamata Chronicle - - Motoring -

Start­ing next year, the chances are that the next Porsche you see will be a sport-util­ity ve­hi­cle.

The maker of the iconic 911 sports car is ac­cel­er­at­ing ex­pan­sion be­yond its tra­di­tional niche with the new Ma­can, which de­buted at the Los An­ge­les Auto Show.

Vy­ing with the Range Rover Evoque for wealthy sub­ur­ban mums, the com­pact model will prob­a­bly be­come Porsche’s best seller by 2015 as SUVs ac­count for a ma­jor­ity of the brand’s sales, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates from IHS Au­to­mo­tive.

To lure driv­ers seek­ing a more prac­ti­cal ve­hi­cle, Porsche is out­fit­ting the Ma­can with fea­tures like an elec­tronic boot hatch and as much as 1500 litres of cargo space.

The model, which goes on sale April 5 in Ger­many, has a start­ing price of €57,930 (NZ$96k) for the 340-horse­power Ma­can S ver­sion, 24 per cent cheaper than a com­pa­ra­bly equipped Porsche Cayenne SUV.

‘‘One doesn’t need sports cars to be pre­mium,’’ said Arndt Ellinghorst, an an­a­lyst with In­ter­na­tional Strat­egy & In­vest­ment Group in Lon­don.

‘‘There will al­ways be the 911, but the growth is hap­pen­ing else­where.’’

The goal is to boost Porsche’s to­tal de­liv­er­ies by 38 per cent to more than 200,000 ve­hi­cles in the com­ing years. The Stuttgart, Ger­many- based car­maker’s growth and out­sized prof­its are a key part of par­ent Volk­swa­gen AG’s ef­fort to over­take Gen­eral Mo­tors Co. and Toy­ota Mo­tor Corp. as the world’s largest car­maker by 2018.

Celebri­ties in­clud­ing ac­tor Pa­trick Dempsey and co­me­dian Jerry Se­in­feld at­tended the Ma­can’s pre­miere in Los An­ge­les.

Maria Shara­pova, who was one of the pre­sen­ters, and has a 911, said the Ma­can might be­come her ‘‘ new favourite’’ Porsche be­cause of its com­pact size.

The shift into prag­matic ve­hi­cles for sub­ur­ban shop­ping trips is a re­ac­tion to volatile sports-car de­mand. Sales of the 911, the brand’s flag­ship, tum­bled af­ter the fi­nan­cial crunch and have yet to re­cover to pre-cri­sis lev­els, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from in­dus­try con­sul­tancy IHS.

‘‘Porsche has the po­ten­tial to move into a some­what lower-priced seg­ment, but it has to be care­ful to not overdo it,’’ said Ste­fan Bratzel, di­rec­tor of the Center of Au­to­mo­tive Man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Ap­plied Sciences in Ber­gisch Glad­bach, Ger­many.

Porsche’s ex­pan­sion will add pres­sure on Tata Mo­tors Ltd’s Land Rover. The up­scale SUV brand, which al­ready com­petes with the Cayenne, en­tered the com­pact SUV mar­ket in 2011 with the ag­gres­sively styled Evoque, help­ing to spur record sales. The base ver­sion is 34cm shorter than the Ma­can.

SUV de­mand con­tin­ues to grow around the world, es­pe­cially in China where street rac­ers are less pop­u­lar. In Europe, the Ma­can is seen as an op­tion for ev­ery­day use in crowded streets.

‘‘ I’m wait­ing for the Ma­can,’’ said An­dreas Bauer, 50, who runs a heat­ing com­pany out­side Frank­furt and owns a Cayenne as well as a 911.

‘‘When my wife drives around town with the kids, the Cayenne is a bit too big.’’

To­gether with the Cayenne, which is 16.5cm longer than the Ma­can, SUVs will ac­count for 64 per cent of Porsche sales in two years, while the share of sports cars in­clud­ing the Boxster road­ster will drop to 24 per cent of the brand’s de­liv­er­ies, ac­cord­ing to IHS. Sports cars ac­counted for the ma­jor­ity of Porsche sales be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion of the Panamera coupe in 2009.

The growth drive has clear ben­e­fits for Volk­swa­gen. Porsche ac­counted for 22 per cent of the Wolfs­burg, Ger­many- based com­pany’s €8.56 bil­lion in op­er­at­ing profit in the first nine months, even though it sold just 1.6 per cent of the group’s ve­hi­cles. A push for vol­ume will be for­given if the com­pany stays true to its sports-car her­itage.

‘‘As long as it al­lows them to con­tinue pro­duc­ing the Porsches we re­ally love, it can only be a good thing,’’ said Ian Fletcher, a Lon­don-based an­a­lyst with IHS Au­to­mo­tive.

Porsche hasn’t ne­glected per­for­mance when de­sign­ing the Ma­can, whose name stems from an In­done­sian term for tiger. The turbo vari­ant ac­cel­er­ates to 100km per hour in as lit­tle as 4.6 sec­onds, beat­ing the base ver­sion of the 911 and the top-of-the-line Cayenne Turbo S.

Porsche in­vested € 500 mil­lion to add an as­sem­bly line for the Ma­can at a fac­tory in the east­ern Ger­man city of Leipzig. The plant has a ca­pac­ity to make 50,000 cars a year, equiv­a­lent to a quar­ter of the brand’s sales goal. Ex­ec­u­tives shrug off con­cerns the SUV will wa­ter down the car­maker’s im­age.

The same was said when the Cayenne was in­tro­duced in 2002. As Siegfried Buelow, head of the Leipzig plant, which also makes the Panamera, says: ‘‘To­day, we work three shifts a day and are strug­gling to keep up with de­mand.’’

Mov­ing for­ward: Porsche is putting em­pha­sis on its sport-util­ity range as sales climb

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