Opinion: why Porsche production must stay in Stuttgart
I’ve just got back from a visit to the factory at Porscheplatz, Zuffenhausen. Situated in a largely industrial area north of Stuttgart, the approach to Porscheplatz is decidedly unassuming as you drive down Schwieberdinger Strasse. That is of course until you reach the brow of the bridge over the railway line, where you’ll be greeted by the striking modern building of the Porsche museum and the more familiar sight of a Porsche OPC behind it on the left. By the time you reach the roundabout at the bottom of the bridge, it’s impossible to not realise you’ve driven into the epicentre of the Porsche manufacturing dynasty.
What’s also so evident is just how compact the area is. The red ‘Porsche’ typeface adorns a vast array of buildings all around that roundabout at Porscheplatz, with large, covered walkways high above the roads below linking one building from another. All buildings are now multi-story (with the factory, museum and even offices dwarfing the two-storey OPC), and, with only busy roads separating one building from the next, the only feasibly way to build from here is upwards.
On the day of my factory tour, I met my guide in the lobby of the Porsche museum and, as we duly walked out to the factory on the opposite side of the traffic-laden Porscheplatz, I asked him if there’s suitable infrastructure for Porsche to continue growing in Stuttgart. The response was interesting: “As you can see, it’s very built up around here already, so room is at a premium,” he says matter-of-factly. “That’s why we opened the factory on land at Leipzig, and don’t forget the Cayman is now built at Osnabrück. We’ve just bought some land on the other side of the railway line here (behind the museum), though we’ll then have to build tunnels to transport parts and equipment between the current buildings on this side of the line. It’s going to get interesting, but there are of course other options.”
I raised my eyebrows at this statement. Surely, a manufacturer with such historical provenance at the heart of their brand cannot feasibly look to move away from their original home?
Thankfully the 911 – the sportscar that epitomises the very name of Porsche – is still built in Zuffenhausen alongside the 918 and Boxster, but with the Macan, Cayenne and Panamera built in Leipzig, there is a thesis that Porsche are focussing on slowly expanding production of their cars elsewhere – and that could dampen the magic for me.
From a 911 point of view, it would be incredibly short-sighted to be put off by a car purely based on where it’s built, but I’ve certainly heard comments from others in the past along the lines of “A Porsche built in Leipzig isn’t a proper Porsche”. While my own views aren’t quite as extreme, I do believe the 911 would lose a vast chunk of its appeal if it too were moved to Leipzig for production.
It may cost more to purchase land in a built-up city, but when it comes to carrying the baton for historical provenance at Porsche, there really should only be one home for the Porsche 911, and that’s where it all started: Zuffenhausen. I couldn’t imagine a 911 being built at Leipzig, and I dare say other enthusiasts – many of whom have owned more than one 911 throughout its lifetime and even paid extra to collect the car from the factory – would think the same. I’m all for Porsche expanding as a result of economic success, but the appeal of the 911 in particular lies first and foremost with tradition. It looks like Porsche are going to have to get building those tunnels under the train track at Zuffenhausen, then…
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