Oliver Blume in­ter­view

To­tal 911 sits down with Porsche’s CEO to talk elec­tro­mo­bil­ity, hy­brid 911s, pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity and even where the 911’s en­gine should be…

Total 911 - - Contents - Writ­ten by Kyle For­tune

Porsche’s CEO dis­cusses the im­por­tance of the 911 and the com­pany’s push for elec­tro­mo­bil­ity

To­tal 911: At Geneva you have been ex­hibit­ing two very dif­fer­ent ends of the com­pany. You’ve got your very fo­cused, very sin­gu­lar road car in the GT3 RS, and then you’ve got your Mis­sion E. How does Porsche fit in the wider sense within the group, be­cause the wider VAG par­ent seems heav­ily fo­cused on ur­ban mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions, e-mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions, car shar­ing, taxi ser­vices, and that doesn’t re­ally square with Porsche as a com­pany, which in­stead is very much a driver-based, emotional brand. Can you ex­plain where the com­pany fits in that con­text?

Oliver Blume: I would like to start with the first part of your ques­tion. We at­tempted to present to­day the whole spread of Porsche, and where it stands for the fu­ture. We have on the ex­treme side the GT3 RS, and on the other a fully elec­tric car. We think that’s a very good fit for Porsche. Also, the elec­tric cars: Porsche won the 24 Hours in Le Mans three times in a row with a hy­brid en­gine, there­fore we have a lot of credibility for elec­tro-mo­bil­ity, and with re­gards to the fu­ture, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are huge. It’s very, very good for the brand.

A big topic for us is to have a fu­ture credibility. There­fore, we are con­cen­trat­ing in three di­rec­tions: to im­prove our com­bus­tion en­gines we will go fur­ther on with our 911; we con­cen­trate on plug-in hy­brids, which works very good with the new Panam­era for ex­am­ple – in Eu­rope 60 per cent of our Panam­era range is plug-in, and we have thought about it to get into this re­gion – and on the third pil­lar is elec­tro­mo­bil­ity. We will start series pro­duc­tion next year with Mis­sion E. An op­tion that we can do is to use old tech­nol­ogy and build and en­gi­neer a to­tally dif­fer­ent car.

Talk­ing about the sec­ond part of your ques­tion and what does it mean for Porsche, car shar­ing and all the mo­bil­ity, Porsche in fu­ture will al­ways be a Porsche you will want to drive on your own. We never will en­gi­neer Porsche with­out a steer­ing wheel. That’s im­por­tant. But we also look for mo­bil­ity and ser­vices for the fu­ture that fits to Porsche. Ev­ery­thing we do has some­thing to do with Porsche and must present for what Porsche stands for. For ex­am­ple, when in the US we have a model where you can rent a Porsche for a monthly rate and you can pick what car you want in what range, at the end of the year we will think if it’s a model for the fu­ture. And what

we see to­day is there are a lot of cus­tomers that have never driven a Porsche be­fore and they try a pack­age for a year, try Porsche and then or­der Porsche, and maybe that might be a very good bridge to get new cus­tomers.

There are a lot of mo­bil­ity ser­vices we have to prove that there’s a busi­ness be­hind. To­day we can’t say, so we have to do some pi­lot stud­ies.

To­tal 911: But monthly rent, even though it’s very ex­pen­sive, it does get peo­ple in cars?

Oliver Blume: Yes. In At­lanta we have two pack­ages for $2,000 and for $3,000 an ex­clu­sive pack­age. With the ex­clu­sive pack­age you can change ev­ery day what car you want from the model range, and for $2,000 you can choose the re­duced range. For ex­am­ple, a Cabri­o­let in the sum­mer­time and an SUV in the win­ter­time, or to a race track with a 911, and that’s what we think about and of­fer to our cus­tomers.

To­tal 911: That re­quires a massive pool of ve­hi­cles, where would you draw those from?

Oliver Blume: We or­gan­ise it in At­lanta with our or­gan­i­sa­tion Porsche of Amer­ica. The in­tel­li­gence which is be­hind it is a com­puter sys­tem that man­ages it. You need a big car pool to or­gan­ise ev­ery­thing and the in­tel­li­gence is when we have a lack of, for ex­am­ple, 911, to talk with the cus­tomers and say “Hey, we have a Panam­era, do you want to try it?” We con­tact with our cus­tomers, and that’s what you have to man­age.

There­fore, we need to know, how does it work, and at the end of the year we will make eval­u­a­tions if it fits for our busi­ness model. It’s only an ex­am­ple, as also we have some pro­to­types with Uber or Gett in London, Uber in Australia or it’s Didi in Shanghai, to have a feeling of what’s on the mar­ket and does it fit for Porsche.

To­tal 911: Look­ing at the forth­com­ing World­wide Har­monised Light Ve­hi­cle Test Procedure

(WLTP), the new fuel econ­omy stan­dards, some man­u­fac­tur­ers are say­ing that this could af­fect han­dling of ve­hi­cles due to el­e­ments like de-siz­ing tyres and more. How does that af­fect Porsche?

Oliver Blume: We are work­ing on this topic now for over a year and I think Porsche is well pre­pared. The chal­lenge to work on was ac­cel­er­a­tion of the process and leg­is­la­tion to do it one year be­fore it was planned pre­vi­ously, and to start this year. There­fore, for our or­gan­i­sa­tion it’s a lot of work to do to re­alise ev­ery­thing, and we can pro­duce up to 1 Septem­ber all of the com­bus­tion en­gines with­out a par­tic­u­late fil­ter. In fu­ture we will have the par­tic­u­late fil­ter, there­fore we de­cided to con­cen­trate on spe­cial mod­els we will change, and other mod­els we leave or we come to later on, to pri­ori­tise our work.

To­tal 911: With the elec­tric cars, will they be stan­dard­ised cars made by Porsche: Boxster, Cay­man, Panam­era, Mis­sion E or will you share mod­els within the wider group?

Oliver Blume: With the first elec­tric body style, the Mis­sion E, we had the op­por­tu­nity to share it with other brands in the group, but it was a sin­gle engi­neer­ing we did with the Mis­sion E. It wasn’t planned to do it to­gether with other brands be­cause we started in 2015, when few brands thought about elec­tro­mo­bil­ity. For the fu­ture we started col­lab­o­rat­ing to­gether with Audi for the so-called pre­mium plat­form elec­tric, and there we see a lot of pos­si­bil­i­ties to do it to­gether. We have a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties work­ing to­gether in a group like Volk­swa­gen.

To­tal 911: Within Porsche, will you keep elec­tric sep­a­rate from the tra­di­tional Porsche mod­els?

Oliver Blume: As an ex­am­ple, we will pro­duce the Mis­sion E at the same fac­tory where the 911 is pro­duced. What we did is, for ex­am­ple, it’s kind of our strat­egy to have most possible pro­duc­tion flex­i­bil­ity, in body shop, in paint shop. The mod­els of the 911 and the Mis­sion E are to­tally mixed. 100 per cent. We can pro­duce what­ever we want in as­sem­bly, that’s more a topic of ca­pac­ity. We have two dif­fer­ent as­sem­bly lines where we do it, but in fu­ture it is possible to do that.

To­tal 911: You touched on it there, but ca­pac­ity is some­thing that we hear a lot from you guys in the GT depart­ment and from your main­stream mod­els. It’s clear that you can build more cars, or you can sell more cars than you cur­rently build. Do you have any plans to in­crease ca­pac­ity, specif­i­cally in things like the GT depart­ment?

Oliver Blume: Vol­ume wasn’t ever a very im­por­tant topic for Porsche. Vol­ume was

more the con­se­quence of good prod­uct pol­i­tics, or strat­egy. Talk­ing about the Mis­sion E, to­day no­body knows how will it go with the Mis­sion E, but you need a frame to make your cal­cu­la­tion and to make the plan­ning with all the sup­pli­ers, and what we do is to think about flex­i­bil­i­ties. What flex­i­bil­i­ties do we have from the or­gan­i­sa­tion side, to work week­ends and so on, and what flex­i­bil­i­ties do we have to in­stall from a tech­ni­cal side? A third fact is to talk with the sup­pli­ers, what flex­i­bil­i­ties do they have, plus 20 per cent, or some­thing like that, that you have to agree be­fore when you start to pro­duce more vol­ume.

Now at the end of this process we are driv­ing in our pro­to­types of the Mis­sion E, and have the possibility to show the car to our deal­ers. We will have a big con­fer­ence in the mid­dle of this year to eval­u­ate once more the vol­ume op­por­tu­ni­ties, and then to make a clear cal­cu­la­tion of what we need from the ca­pac­ity side. Then we will con­tinue to set vol­ume, but it isn’t an im­por­tant goal for Porsche. It’s a con­se­quence. We want ex­cited cus­tomers, we want fu­ture-ori­en­tated work places. That is what Porsche stands for, and at the end good prof­itabil­ity.

To­tal 911: When do you think we are go­ing to see a hy­brid 911?

Oliver Blume: The new 911 will be pre­pared to host a plug-in ver­sion; de­pend­ing on our prod­uct strat­egy we think it will come a bit later in pro­duc­tion. But it’s possible, and when we bring a plug-in hy­brid ver­sion of the 911, it must be very sporty. What we see now with the Panam­era is the strat­egy to po­si­tion top-of-the-line prod­ucts like a plug-in hy­brid worked, and a lot of cus­tomers who took top-of-the-line ver­sions now take a plug-in hy­brid and are very ex­cited. It was to­tally the right de­ci­sion. There­fore, when we bring a plug-in hy­brid, it will be the most pow­er­ful 911 we’ve ever had. To use the elec­tric punch and com­bine it with com­bus­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties.

To­tal 911: Sort of Turbo S level?

Oliver Blume: Yes, some­thing like that.

To­tal 911: The flag­ships be­ing hy­brid, that’s been suc­cess­ful with the Panam­era, what’s driven that?

Oliver Blume: I think dif­fer­ent points. Com­ing from the tech­nol­ogy side, the per­fect com­bi­na­tion be­tween elec­tro­mo­bil­ity and com­bus­tion en­gines. You can drive full elec­tric 50 kilo­me­tres per hour in town and then go out to another road and have ac­cel­er­a­tion where you can use the elec­tric punch, and we have a spe­cial but­ton for it. On the other side, en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pects for emis­sions might be another rea­son for the cus­tomers. A

“The new 911 will be pre­pared to host a plug-in ver­sion… de­pend­ing on our strat­egy we think it will come a bit later”

lot of peo­ple feel cool to have a kind of elec­tro­mo­bil­ity, be­cause it’s mod­ern and it’s a new tech­nol­ogy. I think these are the as­pects for the suc­cess of the plug-in hy­brid. It is al­ways our idea to trans­fer our tech­nol­ogy from the race track to the road. That’s what we did from the 918, which is a purely rac­ing car. We are us­ing, for ex­am­ple, our race car from the 24 Hours of Le Mans, also a plug-in hy­brid, with four cylin­ders. And we are us­ing this ex­pe­ri­ence also to de­velop our plug-in hy­brid sys­tems for our road cars.

To­tal 911: But is it purely for per­for­mance, or is it for emis­sions as well, the road cars?

Oliver Blume: Both of them. For the Le Mans rac­ing car, it’s more from the per­for­mance side be­cause you have ac­cel­er­a­tion with elec­tric power, but for the 918 or now for the Panam­era it’s com­ing from the emis­sion side.

To­tal 911: Will you have around 700 horse­power in this 911 plug-in hy­brid when you’ve got the elec­tric mo­tor and the petrol en­gine?

Oliver Blume: The Panam­era has got 680 horse­power and it might be possible to go in this direc­tion. When we think about the turbo en­gine in the GT2 RS with 700 horse­power, and when we think about fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of the Turbo, I think it will come to this direc­tion. To­tal 911: It should be able to hit 700 eas­ily…

Oliver Blume: For ex­am­ple, the power of the elec­tric en­gine of the Panam­era plug-in – only elec­tric – is 136 horse­power, and then com­bined with the turbo com­bus­tion en­gine it’s easy to get there. There­fore, I think 700 horse­power, we haven’t thought about it, but it might be a possibility. Good idea!

To­tal 911: Speak­ing to some of your col­leagues at rival firms there are sev­eral that are talk­ing about a theme, ‘hy­per ana­logue’, where they see a fu­ture of elec­tro­mo­bil­ity where most cars will be hy­brid and will even­tu­ally be­come elec­tric, but there’s also a branch in the tree where there will be peo­ple who want com­bus­tion en­gines and man­ual gear­boxes. Yes, you are pro­vid­ing that now, but how long do you think you can con­tinue to pro­vide these cars within the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion and the fu­ture leg­isla­tive frame­work and make a busi­ness case for it at the same time?

Oliver Blume: It’s dif­fi­cult to say what the fu­ture brings. I think it de­pends on dif­fer­ent world re­gions. In China, we learn very fast we have only elec­tric cars in the big cities. But you have other re­gions of the world, like the Midwest of the United States, where the com­bus­tion en­gine will sur­vive another 15 to 20 years or more.

When you have the sit­u­a­tion, for ex­am­ple in Eu­rope where you have big cities but you have land­scape also, I think it’s a very good idea for a car man­u­fac­turer – es­pe­cially a man­u­fac­turer like Porsche – to have this flex­i­bil­ity to con­cen­trate on strong pil­lars, and what is a very im­por­tant task for us is to trans­fer our Porsche tra­di­tion to the fu­ture and com­bine it with mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

We have to be very care­ful here be­cause we have such a good tra­di­tion in Porsche, and we want to keep it in the fu­ture as well. For ex­am­ple our tra­di­tion with the 911 is to stay on this route, but also think in new tech­nolo­gies in or­der to keep the brand fresh and young.

To­tal 911: So no mid-en­gined 911?

Oliver Blume: We have a clear strat­egy. Mi­dengine we will use for the Boxster and Cay­man and the rear mo­tor we will use for the 911 for the tra­di­tion. What we did in mo­tor­sport is we put the mo­tor in the 911 a bit for­ward of the axle, but that was only for more of a dy­namic in the curves, but the 911 as a rear mo­tor had other ad­van­tages, and there­fore for us re­mains a clear strat­egy. Those want­ing to drive a mid-en­gined car can take a Boxster or Cay­man and those want­ing a rear en­gine have a 911.

ABOVE Seen here with Wolf­gang Porsche, sup­port­ing the com­pany’s ex­ten­sive mo­tor­sport pro­gramme

BE­LOW Blume in­tro­duces the 991.2 GT3 eith a 500hp N/A en­gine, but ad­mits there will be a hy­brid 911 in fu­ture

ABOVE AND LEFT Parad­ing the lat­est Le Mans 24-Hours tro­phy, though Porsche Mo­tor­sport will now turn its at­ten­tions to For­mula E

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