You’ll be able to drive autonomously – but you’ll want to drive manually

Interview with Detlev von Platen, Executive Vice President for Marketing.

“Porsche will be the last to have a steering wheel.”

Member of the Executive Board - Sales and Marketing at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.
© Alexander Fischer/2021 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG
Member of the Executive Board - Sales and Marketing at Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG.

Mr. von Platen, how far can I drive an electric Porsche at the maximum legal speed of 250 kilometers an hour?

You probably can’t drive anywhere at a constant top speed (laughs). Under normal driving conditions, a Taycan’s range is a good 350 kilometers, and with our new model, the Taycan GTS, you can reach over 500 kilometers. However, it’s not enough to look at this number alone. With the Taycan, we never aimed to become the world champions for range. What’s important to us is weight and driving dynamics, as well as a short charging time. We’ve set standards around the world with our 800-volt technology. The Taycan charges much faster than most other electric cars, from 5 to 80 percent SoC in 22.5 minutes.

Your telephone numbers at headquarters still begin with “911” – however, this year you have delivered more Taycans than classic 911s. Is it time to bring your telephone system into a new era? And what number would you consider switching to?

Actually, in terms of global deliveries, the Taycan was on par with the 911 for the first three quarters of 2021. We are pleased that the first all-electric Porsche has met with such a great response, especially since around 50 percent of people who purchase Taycans are already Porsche customers. That means, while we’ve struck a chord with our fans, we’ve also conquered a new target group, namely people who have never driven a Porsche before. We’re expanding our fan base with electric sports cars. Regardless of that, the 911 remains our icon. No other vehicle is more closely associated with our brand. That’s been the case for almost 60 years. That’s why “911” is still our first choice for our telephone numbers.

Do you consider e-mobility to be the future?

At Porsche, electromobility is the mobility of tomorrow. Our focus is on electrifying our models, so we are establishing an extensive range and a position of technological leadership here. For example, we founded the Cellforce joint venture with CUSTOMCELLS, a company that develops and manufactures high-performance battery cells. With Rimac, we also hold a stake in one of the most innovative e-mobility companies. Together with other automobile manufacturers, we launched high power charging as part of the IONITY joint venture, which is now picking up pace. By 2025, the num­ber of charging stations will increase from their current number of just under 400 to more than 1000. Additionally, we are working on an exclusive, Porsche-owned charging network. We also think it makes sense to pursue green e-fuels — these allow traditional combustion engines to operate with a CO2 output that is almost neutral.

One third of the good 13,000 kilometers of highway in Germany has a speed limit. Or to put it another way, only 2 percent of German roads are free from speed restrictions. Meanwhile, according to a survey conducted this year, half the members of the general German automobile club (Allge­meiner Deutscher Automobil-Club – ADAC) are in favor of speed limits. Is this a bad time to be a sports car manufacturer?

I am against speed limits in areas where it is possible to drive safely without putting others in danger. People should be afforded this level of personal freedom. Speed limits are often used as an argument for reducing the number of accidents. However, accidents are five times less frequent on federal highways than on ordinary roads. Statistically, highways are among the safest roads in the world. That is why Germany’s future traffic light coalition government has spoken out against the introduction of a general speed limit in their coalition agreement.

What criteria will decide consumers’ choices when buying cars in ten years’ time?

For our customers, the brand has always been the number one factor influencing their purchase. We can see that this trend is only intensifying. That is why we are putting a lot of consideration into the question of how the Porsche brand will remain unique and attractive in the future, for example, through emotional connections to the brand that you can’t get from other manufacturers. Of course, the aspect of sustainability is becoming all the more important. We want to be at the forefront in this area, as well. We will invest 15 billion euros in electromobility, digital transformation and sustainable production by 2025. Decarbonization is a central field of action in our sustainability strat­egy — and we’re setting ourselves some ambitious goals: Porsche aims to be carbon neutral across the entire value chain and vehicle life cycle by 2030. All of this will play a greater role in customers’ decisions in the future.

When will Porsche buyers come to trust autonomous driving – and will the autopilot be able to chauffeur in sport mode?

Our goal is to have the Porsche be the last vehicle with a steering wheel. Our sports cars are geared towards the driver, aiming for dynamism and fun while driving. You will always want to drive a Porsche yourself. Nevertheless, it can be a relief for our customers if, for example, their vehicle can roll along in traffic jams or park independently. It’s also conceivable that a car could complete a highly automated drive around a race track, on a course that was previously driven by a well-known driver. This sort of use case would be typical of Porsche.

What is it that makes Porsche so fascinating?

Porsche stands for freedom, independence and an internal drive to achieve goals. This is also expressed by our brand purpose, “Driven by Dreams.” It’s rooted deep in the history of the company. Our founder, Ferry Porsche, wasn’t able to find the sports car of his dreams, so he built it himself. This is the attitude that still drives us today — not just when it comes to building sports cars, but also in a social sense. We want to support people in making their dreams come true, in fighting for their dreams. At the same time, our products play a crucial role. Every vehicle we send out has to be an authentic Porsche. Design, quality and handling are key characteristics.

How can the brand feeling change? How must it change and how will it change?

Porsche has only remained “Porsche” because it has been undergoing a constant process of change. Changes in the product range have often initially given rise to some skeptical questions – for example with our first SUV, the Cayenne, or our first electric vehicle, the Taycan. People asked, “Is that really an authentic Porsche?” But in most cases, once people were able to actually sit behind the wheel, they found that the answer was a clear “yes.” All of our vehicles are sports cars. They share DNA with the original design. They feel like a Porsche and have the typical Porsche sound. The same will be true in the future. In addition, the brand feeling is about real experiences, both emotional and unique. For example, we are further expanding our Porsche Experience Center – PEC for short – worldwide. We have just opened new locations in Italy and Tokyo. Our next one, Toronto PEC, will be our tenth.

So what are the arguments for buying a Porsche, in strictly rational terms?

This question has often been answered like so: “We build the vehicles that no one needs, but everyone wants.” That’s still true today. At the same time, our vehicles excel in how they optimally combine performance with suitability for day-to-day use. A Porsche is much more than a car for a weekend drive. Our sports cars are popular with everyone that wants to combine dynamic driving experiences with practicality in everyday life. Depending on which preference is stronger, our wide range of products enables us to meet every requirement.

What detail do you yourself particularly love?

For me, it’s less about details than an overall feeling. I still get it today, even after 20 years at Porsche. Every morning when I hop into my car, I turn on the engine with a little smile on my face. This applies as much to my current car, a Taycan Cross Turismo, as it does to the 911. And to me, that represents the passion we have for our products.

What do you want from research?

The automotive industry is undergoing massive change, a transformation that has not happened in the past 100 years. Autonomous driving and digital networking are dominating the public debate. The car of the future should offer sustainable mobility, as well as being digital and fully networked. Each of these areas require intelligent concepts. This means that we, the manufacturers, must work in close collabo­ration with science and research institutes, but also with start-ups and new players. We are always trying to start conversations and looking for partners that we can collaborate with to actively shape change.