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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Porsche. It’s not a sellout.

You prefer feeling secure? Go buy a wittle puppy. Porsche understands this.

Danny Chin and I rarely agree on all things Porsche (pronounced Poor-sha!). I remember a particular conversation we had where I was convinced, unfounded or not, that a 911 is a car that is truly befitting of my character… to which Chin responded with a Jezza-like remark, “Because of its ass-backwards engineering?”

You haters might as well throw in some Volkswagen Beetle jabs while you’re at it. After all, one of founder Ferdinand Porsche’s first projects was the creation of the Beetle for Nazi Germany, which eventually became the building block for the 356. With the engine, suspension and chassis Volkswagen derived, the Porsche 356 was essentially an aluminum bodied Beetle with a sportier silhouette.

Ironically, the modern Porsche 911 is more true to its Beetle roots than the New Beetle on the market. While the New Beetle was modernized to a front engine fwd layout, the 911 is still and, mark my words, always will be rear engine and rwd.

It is also this stubbornness to move the engine that is the main gripe for many people who dislike Porsche 911’s. There just isn’t enough weight to keep the grip at the front tires. Come into a turn too quickly, and you’ll understeer. You’d think lifting off will be enough to correct it and the next thing you know you’re facing oncoming headlights while spinning backwards. Think of the piece of mind you’re going to feel not having to worry about seeing what you’ll eventually end up smashing into. It’s a plus.

Okay okay fine. Maybe it isn’t a plus. But what about the Lamborghinis that spontaneously combust? Or what about the happy buyer of the new Ferrari 458 Italia who wrote-off the red head in less than 24 hours? Easy come, easy go. You want to be coddled? Buy a Regal land yacht. You prefer feeling secure? Go buy a wittle puppy. Porsche understands this. It’s no accident that the bat sh*t crazy GT2 RS has the looks of a serial killer too.

courtesy of Autoblog
What about the other models? That ridiculous Cayenne? The ugly as sin Panamera? You might think, “Surely, Danny, Porsche is tainting their brand with other vehicles in the line-up that don’t belong. It has abandoned its sports car pedigree to embrace a more promising future as a luxury brand.”

Yes and no. I see this in a different angle. In multiple occasions in the past, Porsche has come dangerously close to bankruptcy. But I believe Porsche will do anything, absolutely anything, to continue selling 911’s. It will do anything, absolutely anything, to prove that they are, and always will be, the best sports car brand in the world, period. If this means that they must sell an SUV and a sedan in order to finance the future of their performance legacy, so be it.

The “always will be” will prove difficult. CAFE laws governing emissions and mpg aren’t doing the future of performance cars any favors. In the car shows of the past year, we’ve seen a new era of hybrid or EV concepts from every sort of manufacturer— veterans like Toyota, sophomores like Tesla Roadster, and the new kids including Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla’s new sedan, the Lotus Evora hybrid that many of you may have forgotten, and Ferrari’s green colored 599 hybrid. The one that takes the cake, though, is the Porsche 918. And I’ll tell you why.

Courtesy of Autotribute
This year, companies were introducing hybrids for one of either two reasons; either 1.) The company figures that everyone else is doing it and it's a good idea to go into something that's lucrative and 2.) It’s great for the company’s public image. Take that Ferrari 599 HY-KERS for example. Arguably, it was more of an afterthought, an accumulation of existing parts just so they have something to show people. The Chevy Volt was done because our Federal government bailed them out with taxpayer money and we told them to make things happen or else. The Nissan Leaf, the Fiskar and the Tesla were all made by accountants with the intention of profits. The Porsche 918 is a whole new prototype. “A vision for the future of the brand.” Their noble cause is to ensure the survival of the sports car.

They are not sellouts. They are survivors.

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