Porsche sales figures are up, but what of the 911?

Porsche’s latest results make encouraging reading; 81,850 cars sold in 2009/10 (to 31st July) against 75,238 the year before. Revenue was up 18 percent, too. But if the recession is over in Stuttgart, in its wake Porsche is becoming a different company. While North America remains the largest market, taking 23,705 vehicles last year (up 4 percent on 2008/9), it’s China with sales of 11,724 cars, (47.4 percent increase) that is now vying with Germany (11,857, 25% down) for second place. These emerging markets are having an impact on the product mix, too; the Cayenne is now Porsche’s bestseller with 29,855 units, including 11,618 of the revamped model in the May to July period. The Panamera also has more than exceeded Porsche’s hopes – 20,615 were sold up to 31st July and production now exceeds 25,000.
The figures also show the flat sixes starting to fall behind. In the same period, Boxster/Cayman sales were down 10.8 percent at 11,717 units and the 911 fell 27.4 percent to 19,663 units. In the 911’s defence, the 997 is reaching the end of its life; last month’s unveiling of the GTS and Speedster should provide something of a boost before the next 911 is launched in 2012.
And in a move which has excited Porsche psephologists , Porsche has a new boss. Now summoned to the board of VW to take charge of manufacturing, Michael Macht has served barely two years since the theatrical departure of Wiedeking. His replacement is Matthias Müller from product planning at Wolfsburg. Some reckon a marketing driven Müller will impose a lot more use of VW componentry, especially in the light of findings by VAG research which suggested that BMW 1 series buyers often as not don’t know (or care) whether their car is front- or rear-wheel drive; it’s the badge that counts. Now that may play a role in Porsche’s thinking, although Porsche will specify a manual gearbox on certain Panameras suggesting traditional buyers are not entirely forgotten.
Despite pressure from Wolfsburg, Zuffenhausen is very unlikely to compromise the 911. Given the extent of the IMS problem, Porsche has been fortunate to escape damaging the front-page publicity à la Toyota (because Porsche’s sin was not safety related). However, a repeat of this design flaw which continues to cause so many failures of the first-generation water-cooled engine would cost it dearly, not least in its ability to operate at arm’s length from VW.
There is plenty of room for cooperation elsewhere – extending the Panamera/Cayenne platform to Bentley, for example. So Porsche knows that the next 911 has to be pretty much irreproachable – more performance, more economy (and for the legislators, even less CO2), but no engineering compromises.
We can be fairly confident about the next 911 even as Porsche’s range broadens and a potential in house competitor, the Panamera coupé, (the ‘928 replacement’?) is quietly being mooted. The real speculation, though, centres on the engine; will the 998 finally harbour a V8 or will Zuffenhausen squeeze more from the flat six once again? At present, the smart money is on the latter.

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