Porsche CEO Matthius Mueller recently said that Porsche might soon build vehicles in China and North America. The reason? Its current production facility in Zuffenhausen, Germany is simply too small for Porsche to achieve its goal of doubling sales to 200,000 units by 2018.
Mueller insists that the idea isn't as crazy -- or as sacrosanct -- as it sounds. In an interview with the German magazine WirtschaftsWoche, he points out that the Boxster was originally made in Finland, and that several Porsche products are already based on vehicles shared by the rest of the Volkswagen group, of which Porsche is a part. For example, the upcoming Porsche Cajun small crossover is based on the Audi Q5, and the Q5 is already built in China.
So why expand overseas and not just build a new German plant? Money. The United States is Porsche's most important market, and the company sells more cars here than anywhere else. Localizing production would mean getting vehicles to consumers faster, and without the specter of currency fluctuations. As for China, like every other manufacturer, Porsche is seeing huge growth there. It already plans to open a customer center and test track near the Shanghai Formula 1 track, and intends to expand its dealer network from the 35 it has now to between 85 and 100 in a few years.
So, is a Chinese-built Porsche still a "real" Porsche? It probably depends on your point of view. Mueller says that what matters is where it's engineered, and that will still take place in Germany. Let's also remember that Porsche has been busily redefining itself for the past decade with models like the Cayenne, Panamera and the upcoming Cajun.
I look at it this way. I'll admit that I'm sort of a traditionalist when it comes to Porsche, and the sports car trifecta of the 911, Boxster and Cayman are the core of the brand's identity. However, the pragmatic side of me appreciates that the Cayenne is a huge moneymaker for the company, and that money gets channeled into development of new and better versions of the cars that I do like. Foreign factories would potentially mean better profits, and thus better 911s, Boxsters and Caymans.
To me, that's more important than where some of its vehicles are screwed together. Post your own thoughts below in the Comments section.