Superb SUV hits next level
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
THIS MODEL HAS ALMOST DOUBLED SALES OF PORSCHE’S FIRST FORAY INTO THE SUV MARKET, WITH SALES AMOUNTING TO MORE THAN 500,000 UNITS
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.