Porsche SUVs put off die-hard sports car fans

Thu Jun 7, 2012 9:12am EDT
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By Andreas Cremer

BERLIN (Reuters) - Manfred Wilke loves nothing more than speeding down the German Autobahn in his 911 coupe.

Gazing at a 911 Carrera GTS with a 100,000 euro ($125,000) price tag in Porsche's flagship showroom in Berlin, the real estate manager said only cars like the sporting two-seater deserved to carry the Porsche badge.

He is one of a number of Porsche purists who are appalled at the Stuttgart-based sports car maker's aggressive push into sport utility vehicles and family-style saloons.

Nearly 50 years after the launch of the 911, its newer, more roomy siblings, the Cayenne SUV and four-door Panamera, account for almost three quarters of Porsche's sales, and some customers fear the company is straying too far from its racing roots.

"Only delusional marketers could attempt to turn Porsche into an offroader company," said Wilke, 53. "It's a flat-out insult to Porsche's image and fame."

The powerful 911, driven by Steve McQueen at the start of the 1971 movie "Le Mans", has captivated -- and sometimes frightened -- fans for decades and came fifth in the 1999 Car of the Century awards.

Its timeless design, refreshed again last year, evolved from the Porsche 356 designed by Ferry Porsche in 1948, the sports car maker's first vehicle in series production.

But for now the bulky four-door cars are king, as demand for large luxury models is growing faster than the sports car market. Porsche's next major new model is a compact SUV called the Macan, which goes into production in 2013.   Continued...

Workers screw on the wheel section of a Cayenne car at the final production unit at the Porsche plant in Leipzig, in this June 2, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz/Files