Su­perb SUV hits next level

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

The back­room teams at the world’s mo­tor man­u­fac­tur­ers are cer­tainly earn­ing their keep nowa­days. They are the prod­uct en­gi­neers, pro­duc­tion engi­neer­ing teams, sup­ply chain per­son­nel and ev­ery­one in­volved di­rectly in com­plex car man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The pres­sures and tight time frames un­der which these peo­ple must op­er­ate in these fast­step­ping times of rapidly evolv­ing new tech­nolo­gies were brought home at an in­ter­na­tional Porsche Cayenne tech­ni­cal work­shop in Ger­many.

Porsche not only has to make sure it stays ahead of the game in the highly com­pet­i­tive pre­mium end of the pas­sen­ger car mar­ket, where SUVs are now highly de­sir­able sta­tus sym­bols, but it must also co­or­di­nate its prod­uct de­vel­op­ment with its part­ners in the Volk­swa­gen Group, in this case Audi (Q7) and Volk­swa­gen (Touareg), who all share the MLB plat­form.

The global car in­dus­try is trans­form­ing at a breath­tak­ing pace, not only in terms of adapt­ing new tech­nolo­gies, but also work­ing with a va­ri­ety of ma­te­ri­als, such as us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of alu­minium, steel and plas­tic for the body, which all bring their own chal­lenges, such as vary­ing rates of ex­pan­sion.

Car man­u­fac­tur­ers counted model lead times in years up un­til only a few years ago. Now it is months. This is due to the rapid de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies and changes in con­sumer de­mand, which are lean­ing to­wards con­nec­tiv­ity and an in­creas­ing mea­sure of au­ton­o­mous driv­ing fea­tures.

The team re­spon­si­ble for the fastest-mov­ing tar­get in the car world — elec­tron­ics, which in­cludes in­fo­tain­ment and driver assistance aids — had a lead time of only 30 months from start­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion and de­vel­op­ment of new hard­ware and soft­ware un­til pub­lic launch of the 2018 Cayenne. They will still be ad­ding and up­dat­ing soft­ware pro­grammes into the new year to stay ahead of the game.

Then, there is still reg­u­la­tory com­pli­ance re­quired by the au­thor­i­ties for mat­ters such as fuel con­sump­tion, emis­sions and crash­wor­thi­ness. They are now get­ting far more strin­gent and it is now in­creas­ingly costly to meet the re­quired stan­dards.

Throw in the fact that re­li­a­bil­ity and dura­bil­ity should be givens as far as con­sumers are con­cerned and the rate and scope of en­durance test­ing must be in­creased and ac­cel­er­ated as lead times are short­ened.

This is dou­bly so in the case of an SUV, such as the Cayenne, which not only needs to shine in terms of its per­for­mance on tar­mac roads but also re­quires more than a mod­icum of abil­ity in off-road driv­ing con­di­tions. Tak­ing up all these chal­lenges in tight time frames and with cost re­stric­tions high­lights the need for a ded­i­cated, ex­pe­ri­enced, and highly skilled work­force. In Porsche’s case, this ex­tends to 6,000 en­gi­neers work­ing in prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. This is be­sides all those peo­ple em­ployed in pro­duc­tion engi­neer­ing and pro­cure­ment, with the lat­ter hav­ing to co­op­er­ate closely with sup­pli­ers, who are re­spon­si­ble for an in­creas­ing amount of com­po­nent de­sign and de­vel­op­ment.

The Cayenne, which will ar­rive in its third-gen­er­a­tion in­car­na­tion in SA in June 2018, has been an amaz­ing suc­cess story for Porsche. It started out when Ferry Porsche, son of the com­pany founder, said Porsche only needed to put its badge on a qual­ity SUV for it to sell.

These words proved prophetic. The first gen­er­a­tion Cayenne ar­rived in 2002 and 270,000 units were sold be­fore it was re­placed by the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion in 2010. This model has al­most dou­bled sales of the brand’s first foray into the SUV mar­ket, with sales amount­ing to more than 500,000 units.

In fact, the Cayenne has con­trib­uted largely to chang­ing the face of the brand com­pletely. Ini­tially known only for its high­per­for­mance sports cars, it now plays on a much big­ger stage, with SUVs (Cayenne and Ma­can), large sedans (Panam­era) and sta­tion wag­ons (Panam­era Sport Turismo), as


Be­neath the de­sign of the new Cayenne is years of de­vel­op­ment work.

Left: The sus­pen­sion has to cater for on-road dy­nam­ics and off-road abil­ity. Be­low: The Cayenne fea­tures the first ac­tive rear spoiler on an SUV.

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