Friday, November 17, 2006

History Porsche

The first Porsche, the Porsche 64 from 1938, used many components from the Volkswagen Beetle. The second Porsche model and first production car, the Porsche 356 sports car of 1948, was initially built in Gmünd, Austria, where the company was evacuated to during war times, but after building 49 cars the company relocated back to Zuffenhausen. Many people regard the 356 as the first Porsche simply because it was the first model sold by the fledgling company. Ferdinand Porsche worked with his son Ferry Porsche in designing the 356 but died soon after the first prototype was built. Again, the car used components from the Beetle including its engine, gearbox and suspension. However, the 356 had several evolutions while in production and many VW parts were replaced by Porsche-made parts. The last 356s were powered by entirely Porsche designed engines. The sleek bodywork was designed by Erwin Komenda who had also designed the body of the Beetle.

Porsche factory and headquarters at Zuffenhausen (where 911s are manufactured). Left: Porsche Center Zuffenhausen; Behind left: Body Shell Assembly Plant; Right: Vehicle Assembly Plant.In 1963, after some success in motor-racing (namely with the Porsche 550 Spyder), the company launched the Porsche 911, another air-cooled, rear-engined sports car, this time with a 6-cylinder "boxer" engine. The team to lay out the bodyshell design was led by Ferry Porsche's eldest son Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (F.A.). The design phase for the 911 caused internal problems with Erwin Komenda who led the body design department until then. F.A. Porsche complained Komenda made changes to the design not being approved by him. Company leader Ferry Porsche took his son's drawings to neighbouring bodyshell manufacturer Reuter bringing the design to the 1963 state. Reuter's workshop was later acquired by Porsche (so-called Werk II). Afterwards Reuter became a seat manufacturer, today known as Keiper-Recaro. The 911 has become Porsche's most well-known model, successful on the race-track, in rallies, and in terms of sales. Far more than any other model, the Porsche brand is defined by the 911. It remains in production; however, after several generations of revision, current-model 911s share only the basic mechanical concept of a rear-engined, six-cylinder coupe, and basic styling cues with the original car. A cost-reduced model with the same body but 356-derived running gear (including its four-cylinder engine) was sold as the 912.

Another view of the facilityThe company has always had a close relationship with Volkswagen, and as already mentioned, the first Porsche cars used many Volkswagen components. The two companies collaborated in 1969 to make the VW-Porsche 914 and 914-6, in 1976 with the Porsche 912E (USA only) and the Porsche 924, which used many Audi components and was built at an Audi Neckarsulm factory. Most 944s were also built there even though they used many fewer VW components. The Porsche Cayenne, introduced in 2002, shares its entire chassis with VW Touareg, which are built at the Škoda factory in Bratislava. Both Audi and Škoda are wholly owned subsidiaries of VW. In late 2005, Porsche took an 18.65% stake in VW, further cementing their relationship and preventing a takeover of VW, which was rumored at the time. Speculated suitors included DaimlerChrysler, BMW, and Renault.

The Porsche 912, a Porsche of the 1960sIn 1972 the company's legal form was changed from limited partnership to private limited company (german AG), because Ferry Porsche and his sister Louise Piëch felt their succeeding generation did not team up well. This led to the foundation of an executive board whose members came from outside the Porsche family, and a supervisory board consisting mostly of family members. With this change, no family members were in operational charge of the company. F.A. Porsche founded his own design company, Porsche Design, which is renowned for exclusive sunglasses, watches, furniture and many other luxury articles. Ferdinand Piëch who was responsible for mechanical development of Porsche's serial and racing cars before founded his own engineering bureau and developed a 5-cylinder-inline Diesel engine for Mercedes-Benz. Short time later he changed to Audi and made his career through the whole company including the Volkswagen Group boards.

First CEO of Porsche AG was Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann who had been working at Porsche's engine development before. Fuhrmann (being responsible for the so-called Fuhrmann-engine used in the 356 Carrera models and the 550 Spyder having four ohc-camshafts instead of a central camshaft in the Volkswagen-derived serial engines) planned to cease the 911 during the 70s and replace it with the V8-front engined grand sportswagon 928. As we know today the 911 outlived the 928 by far. Fuhrmann was replaced in the early 80s by Peter W. Schutz, an American manager and self-proclaimed 911 aficionado. He was replaced in 1988 by the former manager of German computer company Nixdorf Computer AG, Arno Bohn, who made some expensive misdecisions leading to his dismissal soon after along with that of development director Dr. Ulrich Bez, formely responsible for BMW's Z1 model and today CEO of Aston Martin. The interim CEO was longtime Porsche employee Heinz Branitzki before Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking became CEO in 1993. Wiedeking took over the board's chair at a point in time when Porsche appeared vulnerable to a takeover by a bigger company. During his nearly 14-year tenure, Wiedeking has remade Porsche into a very efficient and profitable company.

Wendelin Wiedeking, Current President and CEO of Porsche.In 1990, Porsche had a memorandum of understanding with Toyota to learn and benefit from Japanese production methods. Currently Toyota is assisting Porsche with Hybrid technology, rumored to be making its way into a Hybrid Cayenne SUV.

Ferdinand Porsche's grandson, Ferdinand Piëch, was chairman and CEO of the Volkswagen Group from 1993 to 2002. Today he is chairman of the supervisory board. With 12.8 per cent of the Porsche voting shares, he also remains the second largest individual shareholder of Porsche AG after his cousin F.A. Porsche (13.6 per cent).

Porsche's 2002 introduction of the Cayenne also marked the unveiling of a new production facility in Leipzig, Saxony, which once accounted for nearly half of Porsche's annual output. The Cayenne Turbo S has the second most powerful production engine in Porsche's history (with the most powerful belonging to the Carrera GT).

In 2004, production of the 605 horsepower Carrera GT commenced in Leipzig, and at EUR 450,000 ($440,000 in the United States) it was the most expensive production model Porsche ever built.

As of 2005, the extended Porsche and Piech families controlled all of Porsche AG's voting shares. In early October 2005 the company announced acquisition of an 18.53% stake in Volkswagen AG and disclosed intentions to acquire additional VW shares in the future. As of June 2006, Porsche AG's stake in Volkswagen had risen to 25.1%, giving Porsche a blocking minority, whereby Porsche can veto large corporate decisions undertaken by VW.

In mid-2006, after years of the Boxster (and later the Cayenne) as the dominant Porsche in North America, the 911 regained its position as Porsche's backbone in the region. However, recently the Cayenne has slightly surpassed 911 sales. The 911 and Cayenne currently take about a third of Porsche's sales each. Slightly over a tenth of Porsche's sales consist of the Boxster, and the Cayman take up more than a fifth (the Cayman's high sales can be explained by the recent expansion of the line). Total Porsche sales in the United States and Canada hover between 2,000 and 3,000 a month.

In Germany the 911 cleary outsells the Boxster/Cayman and Cayenne