Evolution meets revolution.
Electromobility is changing the face of
by Harald Willenbrock
It is a warm early afternoon, around 1 pm, in an inconspicuous hall in an industrial zone on the edge of Stuttgart. The windows of the building are completely covered up, the gates are carefully locked so that nobody can look in or come in without authorisation and nothing is leaked to the outside. Inside is a bewilderingly camouflaged test model of the
Right next to it, in the dark, the new
Two worlds collide – but they have a single origin. And a common goal: to define what
August Achleitner, a lean, rather boyishlooking 63yearold, is more or less the brain of the 911. The automotive engineer has been head of the model line for 18 years; the eighth generation of the 911 will be his last. He has constantly preserved this inheritance by carefully developing it in line with the
"The development of the 911 is always an evolution, never a revolution. At the same time, we have created each new generation in such a way that it will not devalue its predecessors. This explains why
Stefan Weckbach, a good 20 years younger than his counterpart, oversees one of the most demanding tasks which
Weckbach’s mission is to prove that the effort is worth it, that the brand can, at the same time, renew itself and remain true to itself. “As the first fully electrical
Another reason expectations are so high is that the
The brand must, therefore, shed its skin and remain true to itself at the same time. It has to keep its fans excited and simultaneously gain new customers who may have no idea today that they will decide to buy a
How can such a manoeuvre be carried out without being torn apart by centrifugal forces?
For August Achleitner, a substantial part of the answer lies in the new 911. With Weckbach, he is discussing the many large and small innovations which they have built into the latest 911, while at the same time protecting it against too great a desire to change. “Like the previous ones, this 911 does not dare to question its own legendary status,” in the words of an independent motor journalist. “No noise protection law in the world can silence the striking raspy voice of the artificially ventilated 3.0-litre 6-cylinder flat engine; the typical coasting rattle has prevailed over the decades just as has the high-revving roistering; the combination of Sport Plus driving programme and activated sport exhaust bring the plaster crumbling from the ceiling of dilapidated tunnels when at full throttle and in low gear.”
In other words: despite all the innovations, the new 911 is the same as the old one too. Everything remains new. Is it, therefore, the best 911 of all time? “Of course,” Achleitner replies without hesitation. “It is, just as every generation before it has been the best to date. But we have a lot of creative engineers, designers and other clever people on board, who will be sure to have ideas this time, aswell, about what could be done even better for the next generation.”
Most telling, however, is which of their numerous ideas Achleitner and his team did not implement in the course of the model over haul, which took place without market research meetings or product clinics and solely by trusting their instincts.
“Every now and then, people from outside say that we have to be careful not to lose our DNA,” says Achleitner. “I don’t see any danger of that.” That’s because the brand’s gene pool is in the people who plan, think, build and live the
For some people, this transformation conjures up an almost magical effect. Wolfgang
Those moments at which the 911 did experience extensive innovations proved how flexible and, at the same time, how robust the
“Our people live and love
A different case but with a similar effect: the newly introduced model lines
"We have a very special team at
If you believe Stefan Weckbach, the newest addition to the
Of course, there are certainly some sporty e-cars on the market which started off accelerating impressively, only to reach their performance limitations, says Weckbach. “That wouldn’t be enough for us. A
Weckbach tells of how his developer colleagues are working under pressure to adjust many apparently smaller, some larger and, above all, decisive last screws in order to achieve this goal with their usual precision. On intelligent cooling systems, for example, on the elements of the innovative 800volt technology and many other things with which they are installing maximum performance, large range, short charging cycles and the typical driving dynamics of
For example, the decision to equip a
To focus primarily on the drive type, in Achleitner’s opinion, falls short in any case. To be more precise, it snags, so to speak, in the engine compartment. For
But what is a genuine
There is the sporty flyline, the flared hip, the contour of the windows, the fourpoint daytime driving lights and the slender head on broad shoulders: all of these mean that a
Seen in this way, both
In this sense, they resemble the two model line heads, who are now slowly strolling towards the hall exit. Even though they belong to different generations, the two men have a surprising amount in common. Both spend as much time as they can on two wheels in their spare time: Achleitner also on a motorbike on occasion, and Weckbach always in the saddle of his mountain bike. They both work in the development centre at Weissach, only a single floor apart, and exchange views whenever necessary, quickly and at the drop of a hat.
Weckbach tells how, very soon after he had started working for
As a developer, he then experienced how the
Achleitner’s heart is still set on the 911 after all this time: “This car that is really irrational and yet enormously suitable for everyday use,” as he calls it. Therefore, there will always be a 911 parked in his garage. When the two men finally leave the hall and go to their vehicles, he adds: “But in future, I could also imagine owning a
August Achleitner assumed responsibility for the 911 model line in 2001. The new 911 is his third and last; the Austrian will retire at the end of March 2019.
Stefan Weckbach switched from management consultancy to
Harald Willenbrock is an author for the business magazine brand eins and frequently writes about companies which have to press the reset button while travelling at full speed.
This article first appeared on Newsroom, 15.03.2019.