Made in Germany: The Porsche success story60 years of the sports car – a small company becomes an icon
Exactly 60 years ago an icon was born; but who would have thought back then that this small family-run industrial company would grow to become today one of the most important and successful sports car manufacturers in the world.
It was on June 8, 1948 that a new chapter in automobile history began. That is the date the first Porsche prototype with the vehicle identification number 356-001 received its official approval and homologation for road use.
“It all started when I began looking around and just could not find my dream car. So I decided to build it myself”, said Ferry Porsche, whose genius and pioneering spirit has shaped the philosophy of the company.
But over the last six decades it has not always been a smooth road for Porsche. There have been bumpy times. Yet thanks to efficient production methods, clear branding and innovative models such as the 356, 911, Boxster and the Cayenne, the once small sports car specialist quickly transformed into one of the most successful and profitable automobile manufacturers in the world.
“Today, Porsche is stronger than ever. We have the broadest and most appealing automobile model range in the history of our company,” explains Porsche CEO Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking.
“We have our costs and our processes under control and thus ensured our independence for the long term. We have always seen ourselves as David who must stand up to the Goliaths in this industry. This self-image has shaped us throughout the years – but it has also made us successful.”
When Wiedeking took over management in 1992, Porsche had reached the depths of its most serious economic crisis ever. The company was in danger of losing its most valuable asset – its independence. Porsche was suddenly ripe for takeover. The situation had to be handled immediately. And the shareholder families – Porsche and Piëch – told the Board that they would lend their support.
Wiedeking and his Board colleagues not only introduced the Boxster but also brought about the company's turnaround through other economic measures. Under the generic terms “lean management” and “lean production”, new organisational and production workflows were introduced and the company's hierarchy and process structures were reorganised from top to bottom.
It did not take long for the internal efforts to improve productivity and the newly developed model line to have a positive impact. As early as 1995, Porsche was back in the black and began to assume a leading position by breaking new revenue, sales and earnings records annually.
Aside from the balance sheet, it is the reputation of the Porsche brand that underlines the company's exceptional position. For the fifth time in a row, top German managers from all industries selected Porsche AG as the company with the best image in a survey from ‘manager magazin’.
The prestigious “Initial Quality Study” by the American research institute J.D. Power this year ranked Porsche in first place for the second time. And the J.D. Power “Appeal” Study confirmed that the Stuttgart-based sports car manufacturer had, for the third time in a row, been ranked by American customers as the most appealing brand.
Porsche has worked very hard over the last 60 years to achieve this special image, mainly through its most varied innovations and also, in particular, in the area of environmental consideration. Porsche engineers are never satisfied with only meeting current environmental regulations passed by lawmakers. It has always been their goal to exceed them. Porsche vehicles should also set an example when it comes to environmental consideration. So, as early as 1966, the first authorised emissions test in Europe was performed using a 911. Not long after, a separate department was established that also tested the emission values from vehicles produced by other manufacturers.
Porsche develops new technologies not just to improve driving features, but also to continuously optimise the cars for environmental sustainability. In the last 15 years, Porsche has succeeded in reducing the fuel consumption of its new cars, and thereby also CO2 emissions, by an average of 1.7 percent annually. And by 2012, the fuel consumption in Porsche vehicles is going to be reduced by a further 20 percent – new innovative engine technologies and the hybrid drive for the Cayenne and Panamera will make this possible.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder once said: “Porsche is a model for Germany.” By this, he was not only referring to the company's engineering ingenuity, he also meant the David principle with which Porsche, as a small automobile manufacturer, has been able to keep up with the Goliaths of the industry over the last 60 years. With the quality seal “Made in Germany”, its rejection of subsidies as well as its sense of social responsibility toward its employees and society, Porsche has unflinchingly pursued its own path.
This included the historic moment in September 2005 when Porsche invested in Volkswagen AG. Today Porsche has almost 31 per cent of the voting share capital to be the largest shareholder in VW. During the course of this year Porsche’s share will increase to over 50 percent.
The goal of this path is clear: Under the umbrella of Porsche Automobil Holding SE, not only will growth for Porsche and Volkswagen be ensured thanks to their proven development and production partnership over the decades, but also the independence of both companies. Porsche will remain Porsche just as Volkswagen will remain Volkswagen.
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