Geneva 2012: Porsche Execs Talk Future Products from 550 to Plug-in Hybrids

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Automobile Magazine had the opportunity to talk with Bernhard Maier Porsche AG, member of the executive board of management, and top Porsche sales and marketing executive, Matthias Müller, Porsche AG, president and chief executive officer, and Detlev Von Platen president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America at the Geneva show. Here are their thoughts on the future of Porsche’s product strategy. Who will buy the Macan? Maier: “It’s a new target group we are not addressing yet with our current model lineup. It’s giving a position in the B-SUV segment so we are not just in the C-SUV segment. We expect the customer to be younger than our Cayenne customers and it will be liked by those who are more in an urban surrounding. This segment is bigger now. This segment is the fastest growing segment. We found there is enough place for Porsche to build the true sports car in that segment as well. Here, respectively, what we are doing, we are building sports cars.” On the fate of the 550 Müller: “What we have to understand is whether we can broaden the brand and to have new customers which are not B-class and not C-class, which are more or less A-class, and that is a difficult question. And we have to be very careful with the answer to that question. We all are fully convinced that a 550 could be a nice car for Porsche. The question is when is the right time for that car? Is it now, or is it in three years, or is it in maybe six or seven years? I don’t know… We have to be careful not to damage the brand. That is very important for us. If there is any risk now, then we will postpone the decision.” 19:00-20 Maier: “And please be aware when we make that decision it takes at least another three years to bring out the car. So we are not in a hurry. As you know, we have the freshest and youngest lineup we have ever had in our history. We are in a good position. But we have recognized some white spots where we could potentially spread the brand in new segments. This could be one. But there is no decision here so far. The question is at what price could be agreed upon? We are an exclusive brand. What we are building has to fit into the brand values. Exclusivity is not only described by price. It’s more or less by the ultimate customer purchase and experience and this you cannot get for free. You have to get a respective price for that.” On a new model between the 911 and 918 Müller: “That is another discussion which is taking place at this time. Our engineers are working in terms of a technical concept as well as exterior and interior design. It is a question of if we are sure this project will fulfill our financial targets and it will pay into the brand. Then we can decide on the project. As you know, we are a small company and we have a lot of work. We cannot do everything at the same time.” On electric vehicles and Plug-in Hybrids Müller: “We have three Boxsters driven with electric motors in the area of Stuttgart. Very successful. It means the technical concept is clear. It works. The question is when will be the right time for electric cars? And for us, we are convinced that there could be a step in between. That could be a plug-in hybrid. And do strong work for the Cayenne and Panamera to offer plug-in hybrids as soon as possible.” Hybrid and Diesel products in the U.S. Market Von Platen: “The hybrid technology we are offering in our cars like, say the Cayenne, is very successful. I mean we are selling 12% of our current (Cayennes) with hybrids. Pretty good. Panamera we just started, so let’s wait six months to see and I can give you some potential numbers. But Cayenne 12%. That’s good… What I’ve noticed is that everything can change very quickly in The United States. I think (diesel) makes a lot of sense for these vehicles, like the Cayenne, because you need torque and you need range. And today you do the exercise with the customer offering a test drive with the Cayenne without saying what kind of engine it has. And you tell after the test drive, do you know that you drove a diesel engine? He won’t believe you.” Maier: “We see the same reaction from our customers, especially with the Panamera. The Panamera probably is the most attractive diesel when you judge it on the sound. You can’t really realize you are in a diesel.” We expect to see Porsche unveil a U.S.-spec Cayenne diesel as early as the 2012 New York auto show in April. Since the Cayenne was offered as a hybrid before the Panamera, and the Q7 and Touareg diesels are seling very well in the U.S., it makes sense to start with a Cayenne diesel. If the Cayenne diesel meets or exceeds sales expectations, look for a Panamera diesel to follow. On a Four-Cylinder 911 Müller: “From my point of view, no 911 four-cylinder today. Maybe in 10 years. That could help us to position the cars. To say, 911 (is) six-cylinder and the next Boxster generation is four-cylinder. Maybe there are exceptions, but (this is) the mainstream.” For more on the 2012 Geneva Motor Show, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our 2012 Geneva Motor Show homepage.

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