Porsche Cayenne

Would you buy a Land Rover sports car? What about a Porsche off-roader? Now think carefully. Sure, the Porsche Cayenne will be the worlds fastest and best handling 4X4. So what? The Sultans of Stuttgart will have answered a question no one asked: how do I get a truck to lap the Nurburgring faster than a Nissan Skyline GT-R? Here in the real world, the biggest question vexing MPV drivers is this: what time does Jamie's football practice end? Considering the cataclysmic damage these lumbering behemoths inflict on lesser vehicles at a walking pace, the average MPV driver needs less speed, not more. Put Mum in a Porsche off-roader and it's only a matter of time before the entire soccer team is goading her to blow off the jerk in the Merc.

Safety aside (as always), the Cayenne will sell. Plenty of posh Porsche posers will love seeing their Cayenne and Carrera snuggling together in a darkened garage. I find the concept incestuous and redundant. Stick snow tires on a Carrera 4 and you've got a four-passenger car that makes normal saloons seem like Ice Capades rejects. The Cayenne adds elevation to the equation, but it also introduces mass. Drivers will be able to see into next week, but they'll constantly be out-handled by smaller, lighter machines. Still, as a capitalist cheerleader who once owned a TVR, I can hardly begrudge buyers a car they need like they need satellite-controlled headlights that swivel to follow the road. I'm more concerned about the Cayenne's effect on Porsche.

Too Much Money

The Cayenne is a sign that Porsche is making too much money: £5,385 per car. This phenomenal, seemingly unstoppable success has given Porsche Hitlerian hubris. OK, we've done Europe. Let's invade Russia! OK, we've done sports cars. Let's take on GM, Ford, Chrysler, Land Rover, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and Mitsubishi! The fact that Porsche can't make enough Boxsters and Carreras to satisfy demand seems to have escaped the notice of their Bored of Directors. Lest they forget, the upcoming, V10-powered GT will put the company toe-to-toe with Ferrari's F60. With the Cayenne, Porsche doesn't blink so much as sneeze. Is this really the same company that agonised for years about making a four-door 928? It's as if they decided to apply their motor sport heritage to designing brief cases. Oh wait, they have.

The process of applying brand values to increasingly disparate products is called brand extension. Like hair extensions, you think you're getting something better. You're not. Mercedes, once proud producer of bank vaults on wheels, slaps its star on downmarket tat. The next thing you know they're making cars so nasty they're called Chryslers. And BMW's product range may lead the casual observer to believe that a carmaker can do it all, but I doubt they've ever tried to corner a Z3 on a greasy roundabout. Mercedes, BMW and Porsche will all learn that extending a brand damages your roots. Sooner or later, they'll all have the economic equivalent of a bad hair day.

Focus

A successful carmaker must have Focus. Just ask Ford. All their cars are sold on value for money. Maintaining this single-mindedness imposes natural limits on a brand's potential. Ford will never beat Bentley; value for money is not exactly the luxury car buyer's first concern. Similarly, you'll never see a fifty-acre field filled with pre-registered Bentleys. So what's the point of the Cayenne? It may add a zero Porsche's balance in the short term, but it's an evolutionary dead end. In the 4X4 market, Land Rover owns the high ground, where people still care whether a car can climb a tree (or at least looks as if it can). Ford and Chrysler own the low-road, where middle-class Moms have better things to spend their money on than an off-roader than can hurtle her brood down a highway at 155 miles per hour. The Cayenne will be smack bang in the middle, scrabbling for purchase in a tiny niche, forever fighting off Mercedes' ML and BMW X5.

Meanwhile, carmakers that focus all their efforts on creating machines that go like Hell will continue to thrive. As long as Peter Wheeler shovels massive grunt into lightweight bodies, there will be a TVR hovering around at the bottom of the J D Power survey. As long as Lotus makes cars that corner like roller coasters, TVR will have suitable company on that list. There will always be a hard core of wealthy enthusiasts who believe that driving "off-road" means one thing: they've lost control of their sports car. Every man-hour Porsche spends on the Cayenne-designing, marketing, servicing, etc.- is one man-hour less for maintaining and extending their dominance in the sports car market. In other words, the Cayenne is a waste of time.

Peril

HLA12048At the end of the fiscal year, the best thing a world-class sports car maker like Porsche can make is… wait for it… sports cars! Porsche ignores common sense at its peril. Which reminds me; didn't Lamborghini once build a four-wheel drive thingy? Oh yes, now I remember: the LM02. It was an awesome beast, powered by a 420bhp V12. That was 1986, just before Lamborghini lost their independence. Again.

Link: www.porsche-cayenne.com

Comments (446) Join the discussion on the forum

  • thom 17 Feb 2002

    Well Ted, super rant (once again, etc).

    One thing I'm not sure though is wether the Cayenne is a waste of time for Porsche or not.
    Personnally, I would NEVER ever think of owning such a truck, whatever the performance, but now I am only a sporst car enthusiast.

    IMO Porsche is trying to secure a way of making big money other than the everlasting 911 (and let's admit it, one day or another they will have to scrap it, sorry bennno). Porsche can't sell twice as many 911 as they do now in the US, but they wish they could, so they're offering a new model to its market.

    Maybe this is the first part of some 'hitlerian expansion', as you say, but if it can help Porsche afford the developpements and manufacturing of stripped-out racers (remember the almighty 968CS, 911RS) and the return of new front-engined range, then I say 'hail, do it!'.

    I understand it seems very odd to introduce a new model while the company does extremely well now; but remember the variations on the four cylinder theme: Porsche was economically close to demise because of many different models offered in the range. Now they seem to be taking the opportunity to introduce a new car while they are very wealthy.

    Well, just wait and see I suppose...

  • Lee77 17 Feb 2002

    I have one on order for the wife but she wants to stay with her Merc ML will have to see if I can convince her whe we get to see a vehicle in the flesh??

  • McNab 17 Feb 2002

    I suppose we will just have to wait and see, but it certainly worries me. Lofty England (racing team Headmaster and later MD of Jaguar) once said to me that manufacturers should stick to the type of product they are well-known for. Was that an old-fashioned thing to say? Maybe, although the Headmaster was seldom wrong!

    The horsepower race is moving so fast that I think Porsche needs to concentrate on keeping their sports and GT cars ahead of the rest. If they have money to spare after that they should get back into top class long-distance racing, and keep their name in the headlines - but then I would say that wouldn't I?

  • pbrettle 17 Feb 2002

    Totally right McNab - it seems daft to consider that a sports car manufacturer (and a successful one too) will want to branch out into something that could potentially dilute their brand.... It is a big risk for them.

    Then again, reading Autocar last week and Steve Cropley made some comment (I think) that even if they capture a small percentage of the SUV market then they potentially double or triple their market spread - hence selling more cars.... No doubt it will be a success - but for me it is something that I would buy, a Porsche is a sports car and not an SUV - and I thought that the BMW X5 was an SUV too far....

    And what is it about the shared development with VW - I know they have done this before, but if they look and perform similarily then they run the risk of making it look / drive like a VW. Fine for VW, but crap for Porsche.

    In the age of congested roads, is it really good to go bigger?

    Cheers,

    Paul

  • Leithen 17 Feb 2002

    Crikey Ted (Oops, should be Robert - see reply below) - where to start....? (Apologies for length and rant quotient)

    Safety - If anything the extra height ought to improve safety and the old issue of fast cars in the wrong hands won't change with the addition of one more fast car whatever shape or size.

    Pose - yes it will sell for that reason and curse Porsche for falling for that old capitalist number of trying to make a profit. It may make you sick but if the car performs and it guarantees their independence - I'll put up with it.

    Making too much money - apart from the socialist ramifications, they need to do exactly that - and guarantee that it continues - it's the only way they will be able to design, manufacture and produce unique sports cars in the future. Buy your Aston Martin if you like, but something's missing for me.... as well as the fact that Ford doesn't have a great profit record over the last few years does it?

    Board of Directors - not much escapes them, especially their Boss. They nearly lost it all in the early nineties and still know it - the Boxster was a financial gamble at the time - the reworking of the factory, production and supply chain was fundamental - hat's off the guy who called those shots - go to the factory, speak to the employees and the respect he has is obvious.

    Hubris, Bad Hair Day - look at the financial structure behind the grand plan and it looks quite canny - the Cayenne is going to attack a niche area of the SUV market - development costs already covered - they aren't aiming at a mass market here.

    Brand extensions - the majority of "Porsche" non car crap does not come from the factory - some other relative with his own ideas... and despite this for yet another year Porsche has been awarded Germany's most respected brand prize again...

    Waste of time - well we're back to the "how to stay independent in this horrible world" problem - broadening their base is the only answer - that's why the 911 will develop into a sports and tourer split program. A hard look at the industry will confirm that they have proved everyone wrong in the last decade - enough to give them a little benefit of doubt surely...

    LM02 - always wanted one just for sheer @#*$ off factor to the rest of the world - but seriously we are talking about Lamborghini here, not the best manufacturers record in the books....

    Motor racing heritage - this is the one "Anti Cayenne" argument that really gets me riled - Porsche have had nothing to prove on the racetrack in the last 10 years - only a huge drain to throw money down - and a reputation to tarnish. The heritage is established - when they decide to make a factory works return they will most likely whip ass - but they should only bother when the race series exists that has some semblance of relevance to the cars they are trying to sell - no more Group C or similar sports prototypes thank God. If the V10 GT arrives and can transfer to Le Mans great - the motorsort criticism ought to be directed to the organisers inability to put together a Formula worth racing in.

    Neither Porsche nor it's Chairman walk on water - the Cayenne could be an almighty disaster - I hope it isn't, if only for the long term financial future of the company.

    The other way of looking at this is to do the hard part - the not so easy option - come up with an alternative strategy that keeps the company independent, doesn't lose any jobs (a few more than TVR have to worry about), copes with the Trades Union agreements that Germany are hot on, the economic situation Germany is in at the moment along with the straightjacket of the Euro and does it all by ONLY producing sports cars... go on you know you want to.....



    >> Edited by Leithen on Sunday 17th February 21:47

    >> Edited by Leithen on Monday 18th February 07:54

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