Porsche CEO Matthias Müller raised eyebrows at this year’s North American International Auto Show when he said that he plans to raise annual production to 200,000 vehicles by 2018. That’s well beyond the 150,000 that shocked the press a few months ago. It’s an ambitious plan, one that will change the face of Porsche — moving the company from four model lines to six and perhaps even seven. We were able to share some of Müller’s thoughts during a roundtable discussion with editors from The New York Times, Forbes, and Excellence (among others) in last issue’s Commentary, but the full discussion follows.
Excellence: Porsche pulled out of the Detroit show four years ago. Why did you come back?
Müller: We are very proud to be here. From my point of view, it was a bad decision to reject Detroit. The American market was the most important for us, is the most important for us. That’s the reason why we came back. In terms of the future, I mentioned before that in 2011 the American market will be very successful for us, the most successful. If Porsche wants to be successful in the future and wants to increase volume, we have to take care of the three areas — for Europe, for Asia, especially China, and also the American market.
What about new vehicles, like a proposed smaller Cayenne?
We are analyzing our chances in different segments and, at the end of the first quarter 2011, we will finish our project strategy. On the other hand, we should have a brand strategy to increase our sales volume. For example, in China we have 35 dealers and we want to triple that during the next three to five years. And of course we will increase our volume. Dr. Winterkorn (head of VW Group) says he expects 150,000 per year, but I suppose that it should be more. In strategies, we are looking forward to 2018; we now have around 100,000 per year, and I think at least we should double it.
When do you expect China to surpass the U.S. as your primary market?
I don’t know when. In 2011, I suppose the American market will be the biggest market, but, more or less, two or three years later, China could be our biggest.
What do Chinese Porsche buyers value?
I think it’s the same as in Europe and the United States, these are our customers who are luxury oriented. They have money, they like prestige, they like high value for money…
Do they care about motorsport heritage?
At this time, not so much. But we are working hard with our (hybrid) driveline component strategy to increase the topic of motorsports in China. For example, we are going to build a race track near the Formula One track in Shanghai, also in the neighborhood of the airport in Beijing, and so on. So I suppose the medium of a track like in Leipzig, Germany (next to the Cayenne/Panamera assembly plant) would allow our customers to use their Porsche sports cars in a way they love.
What’s the PDK take rate in China?
It’s very high, close to 100 percent.
Is Porsche still committed to manual transmissions, or is the future all PDK?
I think very sporty car (customers) like manual gearboxes. But at the end of the day, maybe 80 percent or more will (order) PDKs. But, for example, a GT3 RS or a GT2 RS, that should be a manual.