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Porsche Roxster lives again

Sporting chance: The Volkswagen BlueSport concept might form the basis for Porsche's sub-Boxster model.

Porsche to resurrect sub-Cayenne SUV and sub-Boxster sportscar under VW

Porsche logo24 Aug 2009

By MARTON PETTENDY

THREE new models – an all-new entry-level sportscar to sit below the Boxster, a two-door coupe version of the Panamera sedan and a “little brother” for the Cayenne SUV – are likely to emerge from Porsche under Volkswagen ownership.

The new models are likely to form the basis of a push to almost double Porsche sales by as early as 2012, in an ambitious new strategy revealed by Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn.

Speaking to German industry publication Manager Magazin, Mr Winterkorn said he hoped to lift Porsche sales from a forecast of about 75,000 this year to some 150,000 within four years via a trio of additional models.

Even more ambitiously, Mr Winterkorn did not rule out the possibility that Porsche could sell as many as 200,000 vehicles by 2018, and that Europe’s largest car-maker is considering a strategic alliance with Suzuki.

The new Porsche chief said he wanted Porsche to sell 150,000 vehicles a year “in the foreseeable future, say 2012 or 2013” by adding new models. Porsche had been on track to record 100,000 global sales a year before the automotive industry slump hit in 2008.

25 center imageFrom top: Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayenne, Porsche Panamera.



“Imagine a vehicle under Porsche’s smallest model to date, the Boxster,” Mr Winterkorn said in Hamburg last week, reviving speculation that Volkswagen’s BlueSport roadster concept will form the basis for a compact mid-engined roadster to be positioned below the Boxster/Cayman model line.

Senior Volkswagen officials suggested to GoAuto in May that development of the BlueSport sportscar was on hold until the global financial crisis was over, but a Porsche version of the 3990mm-long, sub-1200kg mid-engined rear-drive model could command a higher pricetag – and therefore profit margin – while still being the first sub-$100,000 Porsche sportscar.

“The state we are at right now regarding Concept BlueSport is we are carefully calculating how to earn money with a niche car,” said Volkswagen AG product communications manager Christian Haacke three months ago.

“It is a niche product and especially in crisis times like this it will be a challenge to come up with a volume we could require to earn money with it.” Mr Winterkorn said the Porsche sales target would also be aided by a “little brother” for the Cayenne SUV, which is likely to go by a name Porsche has already registered – Roxster – and will be based on sister Volkswagen luxury brand Audi’s successful Q5 mid-sized SUV.

Porsche is about to launch its second-generation Cayenne but had steadfastly ruled out a smaller SUV before Volkswagen effectively assumed control of the cash-strapped company this month, while a two-door version of the Panamera grand tourer was already believed to be under developed as a born-again 928 front-engined V8 coupe.

Responding to rumours that Volkswagen will take a 10 per cent stake in Suzuki, which has previously denied speculation of an alliance with Volkswagen and is also understood to be in discussion with Renault-Nissan, Mr Winterkorn said: “Suzuki would be an interesting partner because of its competency in small cars.” Mr Winterkorn tempered his sales and new model plans for Porsche by saying “a Porsche must be a Porsche”, before suggesting Porsche had lost its way.

“It is important that Porsche … again taking a leadership position in terms of advanced technology and innovation,” he told Manager Magazin. Chairman of Porsche AG’s supervisory board, Wolfgang Porsche, said Mr Winterkorn had been earmarked for a “central role for the involvement of Porsche” within the Volkswagen Group, which wrested control of the lauded sportscar-maker after a bitter struggle between Mr Winterkorn and former Porsche chief Dr Wendelin Wiedeking.

“The wounds will heal quickly, if we look forward to our collaboration,” said Mr Winterkorn, who added for the first time publicly that he planned to extend his contract as VW CEO, which ends in 2011.

“If I stay healthy and you still want me, I can imagine to stay longer. There is much to do,” he said.

Mr Winterkorn’s comments came the day after news that Porsche’s Zuffenhausen-Stuttgart offices were raided by federal prosecutors probing the alleged market manipulation of Volkswagen shares.

Although Volkswagen now owns a 42 per cent of Porsche, the Zuffenhausen brand had built up a 51 per cent stake in VW in an attempt to launch a takeover of Europe's largest car-maker. A merger will now take place in 2011 following an agreement between the two, while the state of Qatar will also take a major stake in Porsche to shore up its finances.

BBC reports suggest investigators will focus on the roles of Mr Wiedeking and former finance chief Holger Haerter, who both resigned in late July. Porsche made significant profits by trading in Volkswagen shares, leading some analysts to describe the company as a hedge fund with a sideline in sportscar-making.

Porsche denies the accusations and says it will fully co-operate with prosecutors, who have suggested senior company chiefs were involved in market manipulation and insider trading.

“Investigative proceedings led by the public prosecutor's office have been carried out at Porsche Automobil Holding SE and Dr Ing hc F Porsche AG, both in Stuttgart,” said a Porsche statement.

“This Thursday morning, officials from the public prosecutor's office in Stuttgart with judicial search warrants arrived at the administrative headquarters of the companies in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. The officials then searched the business premises of the companies, seizing numerous business documents in the process.

“According to information provided by the public prosecutor's office in charge of investigations, there is a suspicion of breaching the publication duty as prescribed by the German Stock Corporation Act and furthermore of market manipulation.

“Porsche is rejecting these allegations. The company is cooperating in the efforts of the public prosecutor's office and is offering investigating officials its full support in order to clarify the issue as quickly as possible.”

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