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Porsche: then, now and the future. Image by Porsche.

Porsche: then, now and the future
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What's all this about?

Porsche, in the main. At this year's edition of the company's annual press conference, we got the chance to have a look into the marque's glorious past, its robust and stable present, and its exciting future. And, if you're a fan of the Stuttgart brand, then it's good news indeed.

How so?

Well, 2018 was the best year ever on Porsche's records, fiscally speaking. In a keynote speech in front of the assembled delegates, Porsche's top two - chairman Oliver Blume and deputy chairman of the Executive Board (and member for Finance and IT), Lutz Meschke - addressed the room with the rudest-of-health figures from the previous 12 months, these creating a stable platform for Porsche to build on into the future. Last year, the most prestigious German brand delivered 256,255 cars globally, almost 10,000 units up on its prior, record-breaking year of 2017, this quarter-of-a-million-cars-plus sold by Porsche also delivering 25.8 billion (22.2bn) of sales revenue, an increase of ten per cent on 2017. From that, operating profit was up four per cent to 4.3bn (3.7bn), with post-tax profits overall of 3.1bn (2.67bn). That's quite the performance from a brand that, through the years, hasn't always had the rosiest of financial outlooks.

Presumably, Meschke - in particular - was pleased with this set of data?

Oh, he was, but he sounded some notes of caution, both over (yawn...) Brexit and also a slowdown in China, one of Porsche's key growth markets. Nevertheless, despite his circumspection, he predicted that more cars would be delivered in 2019 than in 2018 and added: "The current prevailing conditions represent an enormous challenge for us. In spite of this, Porsche can look back on the strongest fiscal year in the history of the company. In 2018, we were able to once more better the record values of the previous year in deliveries, revenue and operating profit. We therefore continued our value-generating growth - for the eighth year in succession."

Sounds good. So you mentioned the future earlier - what's going on there?

This year, Porsche will bring us its first all-electric sports car in the form of the Taycan, with construction work at the Zuffenhausen factory already well under way for the line that will knock out this deeply impressive EV. Following that in 2020 will be the crossover version of the same hardware, currently known as the Mission E Cross Turismo. This thing has to be carefully marketed not to step on the toes of the only all-new, second-generation Macan SUV, which Porsche has said will come with a pure EV option that will be built at Leipzig. At this point, then, we'd better bring in Detlev von Platen.

Who he?

Herr von Platen is the current member of Porsche's Executive Board for Sales and Marketing, the man who has just overseen the company's record sales year. In a brief, round-table discussion with him, he revealed that an electrified 911 was 'some years' away, because the 911 is sacrosanct to this company and many customers would not accept it as a true Porsche if it was electrified. Although he didn't rule out the possibility of it happening in a more distant future... Herr von Platen also said the key to marketing the Mission E Cross Turismo and the Macan Mk2 EV differently was simply one of the target customer: "The Mission E Cross Turismo will be a lifestyle vehicle, aimed at younger customers; it is not supposed to be an electrified family SUV. The Macan will continue to fulfil that role and we are very proud of the electric version that is coming, but the Macan will also continue to be offered with conventional combustion engines, too."

That's good news - I quite fancy a Macan Mk2 Turbo. Anyway, is that it from the head honchos?

Not quite. Perhaps we ought to allow big boss man Herr Blume to have his say about the current position of his company and where it is heading in the coming decades: "Over the past year, we have significantly set the course for the future at Porsche. We have massively increased our investment in future technologies and made even more progress in terms of e-mobility, digitalisation and connectivity. We are driving the transformation forward with all our might - thought we never forget our heritage. That was all the more true in 2018, which was a year of notable anniversaries and big birthdays, not least 70 years of Porsche sports cars. Our 70th was a special focus for celebration. In part, that was because we know what coming next will be as historic as the moment in 1948, when Ferry Porsche brought his 356 No.1 Roadster to the world - 2019 is the year of the Taycan, our first fully electric sports car. The start of a new era."

Sounds interesting, but what's e-mobility and digitalisation all about?

Porsche has an arm called Porsche Digital. It was only set up in Zuffenhausen back in 2016, with just three employees, so it's a young offshoot of the main business. And yet now, barely three years on from its inception, Porsche Digital employs 80 people across six sites worldwide, including locations in places like Tel Aviv, Silicon Valley and Shanghai. The main focus of Porsche Digital is to respond to what the company, among other automotive manufacturers, has predicted will happen to car ownership in a self-driving, electrical future - chiefly, that it will become less and less important. The belief is that people will just summon, commandeer or loan cars as and when they need them, rather than buying them and having them sit idle on the drive for periods of time, sapping money out of their bank accounts. But while this might seem a sensible non-ownership proposition for a Johnny Cab-like autonomous bubble of 2039, you might not imagine it to be relevant to Porsche's current range of cars...

I have the feeling you're about to tell me it is?

Absolutely. Porsche Digital ran us through some of its deeply impressive new products, which are currently in trial phases in places like the States and Germany. They include: Porsche Host, run in conjunction with Turo in the US, which allows owners and collectors of Porsches across the Atlantic to use the PD app to become 'Hosts', then renting their prized possessions out to people who pay a sizeable premium to be allowed access to these things - one Host is said to have up to 30 classic Porsches, which he's renting out and making 'a decent income' from; a similar scheme to this in Germany is called Porsche inFlow (run with partner Cluno), although this operates slightly differently - here, customers pay something like 1,300 to 1,900 per month (1,120-1,635) and then they can have access to any non-GT/special edition models (so no GT3s, yet) from Porsche's huge approved used fleet, for between six and 24 months, with the vehicle delivered to their door and without any further costs save fuel (which Porsche Digital is working on including into the service anyway); Porsche 360+ is a concierge service, with content curated from respected third-party providers, letting Porsche owners know of the best hotels and restaurants, and also offering preferential deals and rates on things like Super Unleaded fuel, premium parking fees and also car-washing centres; and the Porsche Road Trip app does what is says on the tin - it either gives you some pre-ordained great driving routes, of set lengths and on roads that are emphatically not motorways or dull arterial thoroughfares, or it allows you to pick one of the eight main cardinal compass points, set your distance and then it will calculate a looped route for you, including great places to stop-off for lunch or see some sights. We like the sound of this one a lot, but it's not available in the UK as yet.

This all sounds lovely. But I can also see some old Porsches in the photographs attached to this article and I like, very much. What are they?

Ah, the parting gift from the company at the press conference was a tour of its most splendid Porsche Museum, which is just across the road from its main manufacturing plant in Zuffenhausen. At 5,600 square metres, it can display around 80 cars at any given time, but it is known as the 'rolling display' because there are said to be 650 classic Porsches - road-going and motorsport - available to be shown in the halls. And it's a quite majestic place. Entry to the Porsche Museum is a most reasonable 8 (6.90), at the most, and you're likely to see a different array of Porsches, each and every time you visit. We won't go on at length here as to what we saw, given we could be here all day listing everything, but just look at the pictures to get a flavour of the wonders on display - and we'll also say our personal highlights were: Porsche 356 No.1 Roadster, registration K 45286, the first-ever car from the company that gained its road licence in 1948; the Typ 754 T7, Ferdinand 'Butzi' Porsche's first (and slightly ungainly) attempt at drawing the shape that would be his calling card, that of the 911; a yellow 1973 911 Carrera 2.7 RS; the 935 'Moby Dick' Le Mans legend; a Rothmans 956 mounted upside-down, to pay homage to the fact that the car purportedly had so much downforce that it could, theoretically, have clamped itself to the tarmac, even in such a crazy position relative to gravity; a gorgeous 959 that was almost shoved into a corner and forgotten about; the millionth Porsche ever built (a 1996 993-generation 911 in Polizei colours) and, fittingly, the millionth 911 ever made (a 2017 991 in Irish Green with gold badges) to go with it; the only 'Strassenversion' in the world of the later 911 GT1-98; the first-ever Carrera GT, with its mid-mounted V10; all of the 918 Spyder, the Mission E concept (soon to be Taycan, but not taken from the museum, obviously) and the 919 Hybrid Evo, the fastest-ever car around the Nordschleife; and, our own personal favourite (because we're a bit weird), a gold-liveried 'Monnet Cognac' 924 Carrera GTS Rallye, complete with boxed arches, massive spotlight pods, faired-in headlamps and an eccentric sense of cool that had us positively drooling over its form.

So it was a good day out, was it?

We'll say. You simply have to visit the Porsche Museum at least once in your life. We're already planning a return trip.

Matt Robinson - 20 Mar 2019

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