Porsche’s recent announcement of a collaboration with Boeing is part of a wider Boeing push for upbeat PR. In the aftermath of the tragic 737 Max air crashes that led to the death of more than 300 people, Boeing’s share price needs good-news stories to reverse recent losses and to remind its investors that the company is focused on the future.
Porsche investors also like a good news story. Stuttgart’s push towards defining electric vehicle mobility for the 1%, and the constant reminders that innovation is at the heart of ‘new Porsche’ made this year’s first flight of the electric aircraft under development by Boeing subsidiary, Aurora Flight Sciences, an ideal PR platform for both organisations.
Having signed a (non-binding) Memorandum of Understanding to develop a concept for a fully electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, the artist’s impressions of what a Porsche-Boeing flying car might look like is guaranteed to grab a few headlines, but there is a long way to go before we see flying cars. Both organisations have serious issues to resolve before high-flying Porsche buyers can reach for the skies.
Several hundred deceased 737 passengers and the row over Boeing engineers carrying out the US Federal Aviation Authority’s (FAA) safety approvals of the 737 MAX are not going to go away quickly.
Across the pond in Germany, the emissions cheating scandal continues to dog Volkswagen AG, with Brunswick public prosecutors recently bringing charges against Hans Dieter Pötsch (Porsche SE exec board chair), Dr. Herbert Diess (VW’s board of management chair) and the former Chairman of the VW Management Board, Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn.
With headlines like these dominating recent business pages, some flying car artwork will come as a blessed relief for the press departments. It will also lead to some people describing the idea as Porsche’s latest bid to keep tabs on Tesla’s challenge to become the high-end personal mobility brand of the future, but that is a whole other story.
Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:
I came back in from walking Ted the Jack Russell tonight and plonked myself down in front of the TV for an hour of Youtube education just as Porsche uploaded a pretty cool video following the Taycan down the production line. The feature is just how I like these things: no narration, just a nicely edited visual documentary that allows the unfolding story to breathe and invites the viewer to fill in the blanks. Scroll down to watch it.
How It’s Made: Old Guy TV
Judging by the success of channels such as MyMechanics (943k subscribers) and Rescue and Restore (725k subs), more than a few of us like this silent movie treatment with plenty of silent space to watch stuff being made and repaired. If you’re one of those people, then this Taycan video will be right up your street. It’s 29 minutes long and there is no audio soundtrack of any description. Just sit back, press play and enjoy.
A few thoughts came to mind while watching this film on what passes for a big screen around here.
Firstly, the volume is on, but the silence is golden. The robots are silent, there are not too many people around, the lack of ear defenders show this is a silent environment. The loudest nose is when the finished Taycan hits the dyno rollers for its first indoor road test and the tyres begin to roll. That silent film aspect is striking.
Secondly, this is clearly a brand new plant designed for the future. The lighting is impeccable, the surfaces are unmarked and the workers present themselves in robot-like perfection. One is struck by the inference that this car factory is a first: “it is like no car factory you have ever seen before, because what we’re building is 100% clean.” Yet it is built on the site of the first Porsche production line from seven decades ago. Progress in action.
The mix of workers is a little surprising: mostly young white males, all seemingly straight from the barber shop in the corner. I guess many of those shown are new to Porsche, so they have never built a petrol-engined car before and they perhaps never will. Will they ever even own a car? Living in a city with great transport links, I’m not sure I would bother.
The apparent lack of old hands amongst the workforce, implies that there is no “this is how we do it in the other workshop”. On the one hand, I like the feel of that freshness but, on the other, the joy of working with older mechanics was a big attraction when I started my apprenticeship in the mid-1980s. If the decision to keep the new car/new workforce separate was a deliberate one, that is interesting.
Finally, the big message is: LOOK AT THE CONTRAST. Gone are the grizzled welders in a darkened warehouse, gone the rows of German metalworkers beating the bodywork with hammer and dolly, gone are the painters, sent mad by solvent abuse, gone their crazy comrades, gluing vinyl and leather to the roof and side panels with industrial strength adhesive. Gone is the music of engines being fired up for the first time, gone are the fumes from the flat-six boxers, starting as they mean to go on. On the one hand, I like it. On the other, I still quite like it.
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DriveNation’s Andrew Frankel has just shared his impressions following an early open-road press drive in the pre-production Porsche Taycan. You can read his full review here, or scroll to the end. Here are some comments worth thinking about:
“You sit low: 911 low, which is odd in a four-door car weighing around 2.25 tonnes. Yes, it’s near silent but what you notice first is the ride quality. It is ridiculously good, the best of any Porsche I have driven.
“The acceleration is violent, even in the Turbo. The steering was a surprise: weighty, accurate, linear, way closer to a 911 than a Panamera. It is the best electric car I’ve driven and by a mile.”
Porsche gears up for Taycan
Taycan is part of Porsche’s €6 billion gamble on a 50% sales split between electrified and pure ICE vehicles by 2025. Taycan production has carbon neutral ambitions: the goal is a factory with no environmental impact.
Stuttgart’s first full electric production car will add 1,200 employees to the factory-within-a-factory in Zuffenhausen. “The Taycan is one of biggest creators of jobs in the history of Porsche,” said Andreas Haffner, head of HR and Social Affairs. Not all of these new employees will be producing the Taycan; they will also build two-door sports cars. Porsche wants a team blending experienced sports car builders and new staff.
In a programme carried out at last year’s Geneva Motor Show, Porsche apparently measured more than 20,000 people worldwide who were interested in buying a Taycan. Buyers were invited to place a deposit before adding their names to an options programme list. Porsche upgraded its production plans off the back of that information.
The drip feeding of performance data and feedback echoing Frankel’s opinions from first press drives ahead of next month’s launch will no doubt be getting some wallets flapping. Pre-production cars have already been shown at Shanghai, Goodwood Festival of Speed and Formula E season finale in New York to build interest amongst the target demographic.
Taycan covers 2,000 miles in 24 hours
Endurance testing at Porsche’s Nardo facility recently allowed a pre-production Taycan to cover 3,425 kilometres (2128 miles) in 24 hours, stopping only for quick charging and driver changes. Speed tests at Nardo have shown the Taycan to be capable of going from 0-200 km/h (124 mph) 26 times in a row, taking an average of under 10 seconds each time.
The latest testing at the Nürburgring set a new lap record for a four-door electric car of 7 minutes 42 seconds around the 20.6 kilometre Nordschleife lap record circuit. That’s a minute slower than a Porsche 911 GT2 RS, but Taycan used no petrol to do that lap time and the only noises heard came from the tyres and the guy with the stopwatch at the finish line.
Despite owning a Prius for several years and fully appreciating what Porsche is working towards, I’m not an electric car evangelist. I would rather cut my miles and try to drive smarter than pour money into something that is marketed as a zero emissions car but in fact takes substantial energy to produce and needs charging via the national grid every day of its life. There is still financial sense in running efficient petrol engines.
My main thought when I read about the efforts going in to electric cars is that every minute spent developing one thing is a minute that is not spent developing another, which may still have much to contribute. But such is life. Taycan production slots will be released towards the end of 2019, so expect a deluge of press once the kids go back to school. You lucky people!
I spent most of today in a car salvage yard, inspecting a classic Porsche as part of a total loss claim. Being invited to inspect the vehicle for a report I am compiling offered an excellent opportunity to consult with one of the UK’s most experienced insurance investigators on several issues, one of which was keyless security and the part it has played in an alarming rise in vehicle theft across the UK.
Home Office data shows a sharp rise in vehicle thefts in recent years, from the worrying total of 75,300 cars stolen in 2013/14 to a staggering 112,000 cars in 2017/18. Police forces including Manchester and West Midlands Police attribute the epidemic to the vulnerabilities present in many keyless entry systems, where keyfob signals remain active even when the owner is not and permit techniques such as relaying.
Relaying usually involves two people working together. One stands by the targeted vehicle, while the other stands near the house with a device that can pick up a signal from the key fob indoors: some devices will find a signal from over 100 metres away. The device then relays the key fob’s signal directly to the car, allowing the thieves to get in and drive away immediately. The vehicle is only re-immobilised when the ignition is turned off.
Porsche Macan Keyless System Rating
Porsche’s keyless entry systems made the news this week, after the Porsche Macan was upgraded from a ‘Poor’ rating by Thatcham Research for the performance of its keyless system to a ‘Superior’ rating, after Porsche supplied Thatcham with clarifications on system operation. Richard Billyeald, Chief Technical Officer at Thatcham Research, noted that “vehicle manufacturers are beginning to offer solutions and fixes to Keyless Entry/Start vulnerabilities, with Audi, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes and Porsche really taking a lead. We expect others to follow suit quickly.”
With approximately 320,000 UK registered cars now using keyless technology (Fleet News estimates), thieves still have plenty of targets. They are also employing more direct tactics. I recently wrote an ad for a friend who was selling his Tornado Red Golf GTD privately and within three days he had become a victim of driveway theft. A potential purchaser turned up to see the car, was given the keys to start it on the driveway and instantly locked the doors, stuck in it reverse and drove off with the owner desperately clinging to the bonnet. My friend fell off and ended up in hospital: his insurers now say they will not pay the claim for theft.
My discussion with the insurer’s man today shed some light on what the industry is doing to fight back against the £270 million paid out on UK car thefts last year. His team also carries out deep investigations into claims fraud and does some of the basic checks that traffic police used to routinely carry out when more resources were available.
I passed three red Golfs in police motorway stops around Birmingham over several days last week and wondered how many of those stops would involve a VIN check, to see if the car was running on cloned registration plates, as the stolen Golf GTD may be. The insurance man told me how he had visited a car park in London last week and found three stolen cars on cloned plates: ANPR systems only looking at registration plates rather than VIN numbers can never tell the full story of what is actually moving around.
For every car that is stolen, a vehicle manufacturer will likely sell another one, so there is a certain amount of inertia around increasing the security of keyless systems. Thatcham’s decision to rate the vulnerability of keyless systems to easy theft methods (which can lead to some thefts taking place in less than a minute) has not been well received by manufacturers, but it’s one way to accelerate progress in making things harder for car thieves.
Porsche AG announced that it delivered 256,255 vehicles worldwide in 2018. China was the biggest market, taking 80,108 units: a rise of 12% year on year. European sales fell 4% to 77,216 cars, with Germany taking roughly a third of that total. The single-market USA was behind Europe and substantially lower than China at just 57,000 cars in total.
The record number of total deliveries represents a growth of four per cent compared to the (record) figures for 2017. Panamera recorded the highest percentage growth, up 38% to 38,443 deliveries. The 911 (991) also recorded a double-digit rise: up 10% to 35,573 vehicles. Deliveries of the new car timed to coincide with the start of the year should see a rise for the 911 through 2019.
The 911, Panamera and 718 Boxster/Cayman are obviously small fry in the great scheme of things. Macan alone sold more than both 911 and Panamera combined, at 86,031 units delivered, while Cayenne deliveries totalled 71,458. Macan and Cayenne combined is 157,489 or 61% of total output. All four total 231,505, leaving 24750 units: presumably all Boxster/Cayman.
UK new car sales landscape
The UK new car market fell 6.8% through 2018, to 2.37 million cars in total. Diesel cars continue to decline in percentage down from 42% in 2017 to 31.7% in 2018. This shift was largely attributable to the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal, which also involved Porsche and Audi models. As diesel sales fall, total CO2 emissions from the UK new car market have now risen for the second year in succession. The shift away from diesel is having a big effect.
“Diesels are, on average, 15-20% more efficient than petrol equivalents and so have a substantial role to play in addressing climate change,” said the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. “The hard won gains made by the sector since CO2 records began in 1997 are being undermined by the shift away from diesel and disappointing growth in alternatively fuelled vehicles. This only underscores the challenge both industry and government face in meeting ambitious climate change targets.”
Porsche’s green credentials under the microscope
“The switch to the new WLTP test cycle and gasoline particle filters in Europe mean that we faced significant challenges in the fourth quarter of 2018, and these will continue to be felt in the first half of 2019,” said Detlev von Platen, Porsche Sales and Marketing chief.
Porsche cancelled all new orders of diesel models during 2018, so we will see how this plays out in deliveries of Macan, Cayenne and Panamera during 2019. The incoming Taycan electric vehicle range later this year will not have a huge effect on the manufacturer’s overall environmental impact, with another production line added and the workforce now twice what it was in 2012.
Porsche has released the first pictures of the new Porsche 911 Cabriolet (992 model). The new model’s power hood can be operated at speeds up to 30mph and completes its closed to open cycle in twelve seconds. It also comes with an electric windjammer. All good for hairdressers.
Except the 911 Cabriolet is not a so-called ‘hairdresser’s car’. I had a 911 Cabriolet and would have another in a heartbeat. I did track days and long tours in mine and treasure memories of spirited drives on warm summer nights. Commuting was cool in the Cabriolet, although really hot days kept the roof up. Soft tops can be counter intuitive.
The new Porsche 911 Cabriolet offers optional sports suspension for the very first time: a benefit of the improved torsional stiffness from a new mounting position for the engine in all 992s. C2S Cabs have been widened so they share the same body width as the C4S versions. Both models have the sexy rear light bar and all panels bar the bumpers are made of aluminium.
The new Porsche 992 Cabriolet is a good looking car, available to order now priced at £103k for the C2S and £108k for the C4S. But which to buy? Fantasy buyers lean toward 2wd 911s, but the 911 Cabriolet has never been a lightweight, so the performance difference from 2wd to 4wd is negligible: a 2mph slower top speed from C2 to C4.
The modest premium has been a small price to pay for C4 surefootedness with the curvy wider body up to now. I would certainly be a C4S buyer at a £5k premium if a new cabriolet was within my grasp. Stuttgart’s decision to widen the C2S Cabriolet and give both models the C4S bodywork should shift the sales balance and strengthen residuals for the new Porsche 911 Carrera 2S Cabriolet.
It is not easy to find out the UK sales split from Coupe to Cabriolet models. Registration data is also unhelpful. Howmanyleft shows a falling number of Carrera 4 Cabriolets (160 in 2001 to 121 in 2018) to a lower rate of attrition for 2wd models (74 in 2001 then up and down to 68 today), which seems to support the common belief that more C4 models (Coupe or Cab) are exported or broken for spares versus C2 models.
The used market views two-wheel drive 911s as the more desirable, but the only obvious data falls well short of my best guess of total 911 Cabriolets on the road, so many later cars are likely registered as Porsche 911s rather than 911 Cabriolets. This makes it difficult to know where the line is.
With the 911 C2S Cabriolet (£102,755) priced roughly £10k more than the C2S PDK Coupe (£93,110), the Cabriolet looks set to remain a supporting derivative in the UK, but it’s still my favourite everyday 911.
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Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:
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