The Ongoing Saga Of Porsche's Sub-Boxster

2013 Porsche Boxster interior

2013 Porsche Boxster interior

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It’s been a busy year for speculation on future Porsche models, and we’re not even at the halfway point yet.

In January, Porsche CEO Matthais Mueller seemed to say “nein” to the idea of an entry-level Porsche roadster by commenting, “Possibly we need to wait until the next generation of customers before the idea of a small roadster will work for Porsche.”

Not two months later, Mueller told us directly that a sub-Boxster was definitely still in the works, but the timing was the big question. Knowing that such a car would take three years to hit production once project approval was granted, a launch wouldn’t be possible any sooner than 2015.

Now Automobile has done what it can to clarify the muddied waters of Porsche’s product plan. First the good news: it confirms our news that the sub-Boxster (which Porsche calls the 551 internally) is still very much alive.

Now for some bad news: it’s very low on Porsche’s scale of priorities. Job number one is getting the current 911 range fleshed out with expected models, followed by updating the Panamera and launching the new Macan crossover. Next, the automaker has to get the 918 Hybrid and 960 supercar into production, since both are high margin and high visibility.

That takes the automaker into 2016, which is the earliest Automobile projects that work on the 551 project could begin. That means no cars in showrooms until 2018 or 2019, which seems to be a very distant speck on the horizon.

Why the 551 is so low on Porsche’s “to do” list is easy to see. Margins on such a car would be extremely tight, even with use of the new MSB scalable platform and production help from Volkswagen. Sales of such a model would be minimal, especially when compared to key products like the Porsche Cayenne SUV.

Even Volkswagen has soured on the idea of a BlueSport roadster, once rumored to be the sub-Boxster’s fraternal twin. These days, VW views the project as too expensive, while proclaiming the car as too narrow in focus and too small for the largest potential audience, North America.

It’s just simple economics: as badly as enthusiasts want an affordable Porsche, such a model won’t earn Porsche enough profit to justify the expense of development. Ironically, the more successful that Porsche is with the Macan, the more likely it is that development of the 551 will proceed. If you want a sub-Boxster roadster, we’d suggest you buy a Macan first.

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