Porsche Exec Talks Automaker’s Drive to Electric Vehicles

March 22, 2019 by Jaclyn Trop, @jaclyntrop

Watch out Tesla, luxury sport car automaker Porsche will begin building its first all-electric utility vehicle, the Taycan Cross Turismo, next year.

The crossover derives from the Porsche Taycan, a 600-horsepower Tesla Model X fighter arriving in September as the automaker’s first-ever electric vehicle. That’s in addition to a battery-electric version of Porsche’s bestselling nameplate, the Macan compact crossover, that the company plans to build at its expanded Leipzig factory early next decade.

The Taycan models are part of the German automaker’s roughly $6.8 billion investment in electromobility as it strives to offer a hybridized or fully electric version of half its models by 2022. Volkswagen Group, Porsche’s parent company, is also going all in, spending tens of billions to electrify nearly 70 models over the next decade.

Detlev von Platen, Porsche executive board member for global sales and marketing

Detlev von Platen

The tumble toward electromobility may come as bad news to diehard enthusiasts who believe a Porsche is defined by its flat-six combustion engine.

The skepticism calls to mind a time when fans resisted the idea of a Porsche utility vehicle. In 2003, the Cayenne was a risky experiment. Today, it’s Porsche’s No. 2 vehicle after the Macan, which sold 86,000 units worldwide last year.

Lately, the rate of change within the industry and within Porsche is accelerating, says Detlev von Platen, Porsche’s executive board member for global sales and marketing. “We have seen more changes in the last five years, and even more changes in the next five years, than we have seen in the last 40 or 50 years.”

Von Platen talked to Trucks.com about Porsche’s plans to electrify its SUV lineup and consumers’ resistance to change.

What is the reaction to Porsche’s move toward electromobility?

When we moved from air-cooled engines to a fluid-cooled engine, I remember very well the reaction at that time, especially in America, where people came to us and said, “That’s not a 911 anymore.” We had the same story when we decided to introduce the turbo technology. There was a big reaction, but six months later everybody understood.

For us, we believe that electrification perfectly fits the brand. The low center of gravity is an advantage. There’s a lot of advantage in terms of acceleration. You could say that with this technology, in the way we design and create our cars, we see a huge potential. The conversation basically began five years ago when everyone was looking at Tesla. Now a sports car manufacturer like Porsche is saying that we could see a mix of 50 percent combustion engines and 50 percent electrification for Porsche.

You have two all-electric SUVs on the way, as well as a battery-powered sports car. Why now?

We are entering a world where people expect a lot of innovations, not only in terms of cars but in terms of entertainment and connectivity. We are basically joining two worlds. I think in some parts of the United States, like California, we will see a huge and quick development of electric mobility, simply because people are very much aware of ecology, of saving the planet, and of being in the front of technology. In some parts of the country, like in other countries of the world, you are much more reluctant for change and still prefer big SUVs.

Who is it for?

The Cross Turismo is basically a more lifestyle-ish interpretation of the Taycan sports car, so we see it not directly targeting the SUV market. It’s moving more in the direction of people looking for activities and a more lifestyle-centric design. The electric Macan is clearly going in the CUV/SUV segment, where we see the strongest competition and also the biggest potential for implementing this technology. Young people feel strongly about this segment worldwide, not only in the United States, but in Europe and China. The challenge we have is to make sure this brand still remains relevant and emotional, desired well into the future, especially by younger generations.

We are very keen on our social-acceptance component. You buy a Porsche because you have a dream and you want to experience this dream while doing it in a very acceptable way.

Tariffs could put pressure on Porsche sales. Would you consider building vehicles in the U.S.?

You need at least a volume of 50,000 units for one model for it to start to make sense. That’s just for one model. We are selling six models with a little bit more than 50,000 units overall. So it wouldn’t make any sense for us to bring some production into the United States. But it’s very important for our customers that we invest in the United States. We have invested more than half a billion dollars in improving the customer service in the U.S. with our dealers. We have invested close to $180 million in our call centers. We have more than 7,000 people working for Porsche in the States. So the relationship is very strong, and we will continue to invest.

Ryan ZumMallen March 15, 2019
Tesla Motors faces challenges to build its Model Y crossover including increased competition, jeopardizing its other models and bringing a factory up to speed.

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