Porsche Cayenne: An SUV becomes a success story

The Porsche Cayenne GTS gets a V8 again. © Porsche

For a long time, Porsche was considered a pure sports car brand. But that has long since changed. The Cayenne is now the Zuffenhausen-based company’s most successful model – even before the 911.

A CEO in rubber boots – at least at Porsche that hasn’t existed since the days of the tractors, and they were hired in 1963. But almost 40 years later, Porsche boss Wendelin Wiedeking once again packed sturdy shoes when he flew to Spain in autumn 2002 to present a new model.

Because instead of the racetrack, the moguls were on, and instead of a sports car, he unveiled the brand’s first off-road vehicle: the curtain up and the stage clear for the Cayenne.

Related to the VW Touareg

Developed under the code name “Colorado” and closely related to the VW Touareg, it should finally give the brand a meaning and thus open up new customer groups. Because at the time, Wiedeking answered the question of who had needed a Porsche up to now with unusual openness: “Nobody really.” Instead of closing the store for this reason, he launched the first Porsche with added value: a “Sport Utility Vehicle ( SUV) with outstanding properties in the field that combines the travel comfort of a luxury sedan with the agility of a sports car, “he wrote in his engineers’ specifications.

And what they delivered was obviously well received. Even before the start of sales in December 2002, Porsche raised its forecast for the first year from 25,000 to 30,000 cars and then steadily increased production. The Cayenne has not only become the most successful Porsche series and overtook the 911 with almost 50,000 units in the 2007/2008 financial year with a total production of more than 105,000 cars. Shortly before the second half for the third generation of the SUV flagship, the first million has just become full. For comparison: Porsche has barely sold more than half as many 911 cars during this time.

Start as a turbo with 450 hp

The Porsche Cayenne Turbo S e-Hybrid. Photo: Porsche

The first generation of the Cayenne came from the pen of the then head of design Harm Lagaaij and starts straight away as a turbo – with 450 hp and a top speed of 266 km / h, the Swabians are right at the top. However, they later dare to break a second taboo and even bring a diesel – with great success. When the second generation started after 275,000 copies, the Cayenne once again became a pioneer and heralded the hybrid era at Porsche – first without and then from 2014 also with a socket outlet. It is going so well that Porsche will no longer offer diesel for the Cayenne III in 2017. Especially not after the Swabians got into the maelstrom of the exhaust scandal in the VW group.

With the Cayenne, not only Porsche has left its niche and dramatically expanded its market coverage. It is not for nothing that the Stuttgart-based company is regarded as an off-road vehicle manufacturer in China, for example, and has to laboriously establish its sporting spirit. You have also paved the way for many other manufacturers into lucrative sideline.

Competition was more at the start

Of course, there were already potent, prestigious and expensive SUVs before – starting with the Range Rover and the Mercedes G-Class to the then still young cars such as the Mercedes ML or the BMW X5. And notorious know-it-alls rightly recall the Lamborghini LM002 as the first SUV from a sports car manufacturer, even if the 301 sold only justifies a footnote in the history of horsepower. But without the success of the Cayenne, there would have been neither a Bentley Bentayga nor a Lamborghini Urus. And just like at Porsche, the SUVs have become by far the best-selling models there too.

Brands outside of the VW Group have also been inspired by this: Maserati has followed suit with the Levante, Rolls-Royce with the Cullinan, Aston Martin with the DBX and even Ferrari has now given up all resistance and started developing the first SUV that should be on the market within two years. The Italians have already given away the name because they want to take the fear of purists away: Purosangue is the name of the Ferrari for fields, forests and meadows: pure blood.

The only thing missing now is McLaren. The British have so far steadfastly refused and do not want to get closer to everyday life than with the GT, which is the first McLaren to offer such practical trivialities as a make-up mirror and a glove compartment. That’s why they constantly reject a real SUV. But you don’t have to be a prophet to assume a certain greed for profit in Woking. And the further the Brexit and Corona depress the cash register, the greater the temptation could be.

Don’t worry about brand values

The new Aston Martin DBX also cuts a fine figure off-road. Photo: Aston Martin

Nobody has to have a guilty conscience, and also not fear about watered down brand values. This is also proven by the example of the Cayenne, says Jan Burgard from strategy consultant Berylls in Munich: “I see a transfer of these values ​​to a new playing field that is shaken up by increasing electrification anyway.” The Cayenne is undoubtedly one of the sportiest premium SUVs and therefore go very well with the Porsche brand, similar to a DBX to Aston Martin or a Urus to Lamborghini.

And the large SUVs from Bentley, Rolls Royce and Maybach, with their luxury and comfort attributes, also embody the values ​​of their brands, says the expert: With this, manufacturers and dealers would have opened up new target groups and earned money for investments, which of course would also have Sports car buyers benefited. Without Cayenne & Co, Porsche might no longer be able to afford a 911.

Instead of criticizing the Swabians for stepping out of the niche into the mass market, one should congratulate the strategists on turning to the SUV segment at such an early stage. Success in most markets from China to the USA has long been largely dependent on the Cayenne and Macan, analyzes Burgard and the figures from Zuffenhausen prove him right: of the almost 192,000 cars that Porsche delivered in the first three quarters, a good 64,000 were Cayenne – that’s 34 percent. In China the share was even 37 percent and in Germany, the motherland of high-speed drivers, it was still 21 percent, reports the sales department.

The importance of sports cars is decreasing

“The importance of sports cars and sporty coupés is declining worldwide, while the popularity of luxury SUVs continues to grow strongly”, Burgard is convinced: “No matter how big the grumbling of the cast-iron sports car fans, the Cayenne is a far bigger one for Porsche Milestone as the change from the air-cooled to the water-cooled six-cylinder boxer. “

Even the notoriously critical car pope Ferdinand Dudenhöffer pays Porsche praise and appreciation for the courageous step and accepts the alleged sin of the sports and luxury manufacturers: “The car manufacturers make splendid profits with the vehicles. With these profits it is possible to finance other important investments such as expensive electromobility, ”he says with a view to the 50,000 luxury SUVs that will be sold in Germany this year. However, these profits are not without risk, the expert warns: Big ships confront and thus also have a negative image effect that burdens the important SUV segment overall. “Most of the luxury SUVs are powerful, perhaps too powerful for sometimes narrow streets in our cities, narrow parking bays and confrontational for cyclists and pedestrians.”

Acceptance depends on the market

Audi is providing the E-Tron with a sportier body variant. It bears the addition Sportback. Photo: Audi

The climate change dilemma of luxury SUVs can be solved, as Tesla did with the Model X, Mercedes with the EQC or Audi with the E-tron. “But the confrontation remains because of the sheer size: cars more than five meters long, two meters wide and 1.80 meters high are more intended for Americans, Saudis or Chinese,” says Dudenhöffer and warns that such giants should be used in these regions Reservations:

For domestic climes he calls for more mediocrity in luxury and recommends Porsche & Co take a look at their own archive: “A return to the size of the first Cayenne would not be the worst for German roads.” (SP-X)


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