Automotive News recently reported that ever since the Porsche’s newest and smallest SUV, the Macan, went on sale in the U.S. last May, it’s been so popular that wait times for delivery have been six months or more. High demand for your product is a great thing in business, but no one wants to lose a customer over an excessively long wait. So in response, Porsche is working to increase production to meet U.S. demand. The factory is reportedly at capacity though, and worldwide demand is just as high.
The Porsche Macan’s larger sibling, the Cayenne, has also proved popular since its introduction, selling 16,000 units in the U.S. last year and 18,000 units in the previous year. Porsche’s most iconic model, the 911, however, sold just over 10,000 units in both 2013 and 2014. The Boxster, Porsche’s least expensive model prior to the introduction of the Macan, didn’t even sell 10,000 units total over that two-year period. While Macan sales didn’t quite eclipse the 911, in the seven months that it was on sale last year, it sold over 7,000 units. At that rate, the Macan is on track to be the second most popular model in the Porsche lineup this year. Part of that can be attributed to the low-for-Porsche base price, but clearly Porsche’s SUVs are popular with customers.
Is it really a good idea for a company with a reputation for building some of the best sports cars in the world to offer not just one, but two SUVs? Isn’t that selling out or at least diluting the brand?
If Porsche’s SUVs drove like barely civilized farm trucks, that might be the case, but both the Cayenne and Macan are known for being much more fun to drive than other luxury SUVs and could even potentially be called sporty. Unsurprisingly, the company known for its precise engineering and top scores in the JD Power Initial Quality Survey has delivered well-built, high-quality SUVs to match its sports cars. While selling more vehicles could theoretically dilute the brand, there’s at least a $50,000 barrier to entry that continues to keep Porsches exclusive. Compared to BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, all of which offer several vehicles in the $30,000 price range, purchasing a new Porsche takes considerably more money.
Speaking of money though, selling more vehicles means Porsche is making more money. People rarely, if ever, buy a base model Porsche, and those options packages add up quickly. Want Impulse Red Metallic paint? That will be $3,100. Want 21-inch Sport Classic wheels in Platinum Satin? That will be another $3,100. Want a natural leather interior? That will be nearly $5,000. Those aren’t even the most expensive options that you can order on a Macan either. As you can imagine, with one or two options packages, the price of a Macan can climb quite high, driving profits higher as well.
Higher profits, of course, means that Porsche has more money in the bank to spend on building awesome-but-low-volume variants of its various sports cars. Do you really think that the incredibly cool Cayman GT4 is going to sell in large quantities? Heck, look at the 911. Did you know that there are 20 different Porsche 911s? That’s crazy. For comparison, Jaguar “only” offers 8 different F-Types. All those different variations of 911 give customers nearly unlimited choices, but producing that many variations is more complex, and added complexity costs money.
Building and selling SUVs may be “heretical” to Porsche purists who hate to see the Porsche nameplate on the back of any vehicle that isn’t a sports car, but those same purists are also the ones who have been clamoring for vehicles like the targa-topped 911 and the Cayman GT4. Yes, Porsche builds some of the best sports cars in the world, but it’s also a company that needs to make money in order to remain profitable. All companies that build performance cars have to deal with that tension because sadly, it’s rarely (if ever) avoidable.
Some automakers try to move their niche vehicles more mainstream, which usually ends up making them less enjoyable to drive. Look at BMW, for example. If I had a nickel for every auto journalist who had said sometime in the last few years that BMW lost its edge, I’d have to make at least two trips to the CoinStar just to turn those nickels into cash. You may hear people say that the 911 GT3 is more civilized and less likely to murder its driver than in previous generations, but the latest GT3 certainly hasn’t lost its edge.
If Porsche wants to continue churning out low-volume variation after low-volume variation of its sports cars, and even its sports sedan, and if it wants to finance the development of those cars with a line of SUVs, then I say that’s great news. Let people buy all the Macans they can get their hands on, and let Porsche keep doing what it’s doing. I, for one, welcome many more types of 911. Is there room in the lineup for a Porsche 911 Turbo Targa? There might not be now, but if enough Cayennes and Macans sell next year, you never know. I do know, however, that a Turbo Targa would be awesome.
It might not be the most common opinion, especially among car enthusiasts, but as long as Porsche keeps making awesome sports cars like the Cayman GT4, than high Macan sales are a great thing. Now, if Porsche starts cutting back on production of those same great sports cars in order to build more SUVs, then there will be a problem. Until then, I say Porsche should keep selling Macans as fast as it can build them.