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…
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