2014 Porsche 911 Targa 4Enlarge Photo
Volkswagen's shareholders love Porsche.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Porsche makes $23,000 on every car it sells, for a profit margin of 18 percent. That's more than fellow Volkswagen Group properties Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini, and well above the group's non-luxury brands.
In an annual report, Bentley wasn't far behind the German brand, with over $20,000 in profits per car. VW considers Lamborghini a part of Audi, and the two brands managed just $5,200 in profits per vehicle. In comparison, the Volkswagen brand itself made just $850 per car-- a 2.9 percent profit margin.
The fallout from the Great Recession is still affecting sales of mainstream models, but expensive luxury and exotic cars are selling quite well. Their wealthy buyers simply weren't affected by the stagnant global economy so--unlike the typical Jetta or Passat customer--they aren't hesitating to make new-car purchases.
Upscale brands also have less direct competition: There aren't as many makers of premium sports cars as there are of midsize sedans. Buyers are also more likely to make their choices based on subjective qualities, rather than objective metrics like fuel economy, interior space, or price.
However, all of those factors apply to Bentley, Lamborghini and--to a lesser extent--Audi. So why is Porsche the profit leader?
One reason may be Porsche's position in the VW Group hierarchy. Its products are definitely exclusive, but they're produced in larger numbers than anything from Bentley or Lambo. There's also more parts sharing between Porsche and the more mainstream brands, which brings costs down.
Case in point: The Cayenne. It's still considered the spawn of Satan by many a Porsche fan, but this SUV has been the brand's best-selling model for years. Its price and performance put it a level above the Audi Q7, but the Cayenne still shares a platform with it and the Volkswagen Touareg.
It's also just the kind of car people want to buy. Even members of the One Percent need to haul kids and groceries, and it's hard to do that in a 911. Porsche is successful because it has both models in its showrooms.