Porsche faces risks repositioning the Cayman and Boxster
|Christiaan Hetzner is Automotive News Europe's Germany correspondent.|
Porsche is clearing up one of the last remaining oddities of the era under ex-CEO Wendelin Wiedeking. After unclogging a legacy investment jam built up under its former long-serving former chief, the brand is fundamentally repositioning its mid-engine sports car range with a different pricing strategy and new names.
In the future the Cayman coupe will be the most affordable Porsche instead of the Boxster roadster. Together the two account for just 10 percent of the more than 225,000 vehicles Porsche sold last year.
Until now, the Cayman, launched in 2005, has always been sold at a premium to its roadster sibling even though convertibles like the Boxster are normally pricier despite their lower acceleration rates. This is because reinforcing the body in open-top models to meet crash safety standards is more expensive when you remove things such as the B-pillar and hardtop roof.
Selling a coupe for more than a convertible had been another example that analysts say shows Porsche’s ability to do whatever it pleases and still come out golden, even if it meant turning a fundamental law of the industry on its head.
Porsche however is introducing new downsized engines for the Cayman and Boxster siblings to reduce its fleet CO2 emissions, taking out two of the six cylinders in the flat Boxer engine while adding a turbocharger. The brand has decided both cars will in future have the same horsepower to save costs arising from the added complexity. As a result customers will no longer be asked to pay more for the Cayman, which previously offered 10 hp more than the Boxster.
Porsche will debut the latest-generation Boxster at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday with a new name - the 718 Boxster. The roadster will go on sale in Europe on April 30with prices starting at 53,646 euros in Germany.
The upcoming 718 Cayman will be unveiled on April 25 at the Beijing show. Its pricing has not been announced yet but Porsche said in a statement that the Boxster will be positioned at a higher price level than the Cayman – as is done for the 911 models.
The outgoing Boxster costs 50,909 euros plus tax in Germany while the Cayman starts at 51,385 euros. In the 911 series, the convertible costs nearly 14 percent more than its hardtop sibling.
Changing a system in place for years presents risks, especially in a segment where customers are typically less brand loyal.
According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the top 20 percent of the German population already have a disposable annual income of nearly 55,000 euros. Were the price of the Cayman lowered, it would have meant a Porsche would have had a price tag somewhere in the 40,000 euro range, putting the car easily within grasp of a large slice of the population. This would risk diluting the exclusivity of the brand, which had a share of just 0.9 percent of the German new car market, and eventually narrow Porsche’s high 15 percent margins.
On the other hand, lifting the Boxster price up above the Cayman, as Porsche has chosen, poses a different challenge. Will enough customers accept a turbocharged four-cylinder Boxster that retails for over 5 percent more than what they paid for a six-cylinder version in the past?
With the new Boxster drivers get 35 more horsepower and 13 percent better fuel economy, solid but not much more than one would expect for a next-generation model.
Perhaps Porsche is banking on the acceleration boost from the 100 extra Newton meters of torque. Customers buying the 718 Boxster will be able to sprint from 0-100 kph in only 5.1 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than the older version.
Is that really worth paying nearly 3,000 euros more at the end of the day? The market for two-seat coupes and roadsters is under pressure, since people are less able to afford spending so much money on cars that are so impractical for everyday use. I wouldn’t be surprised if sales of the upcoming Boxster generation fail to match those of its predecessor.
You can reach Christiaan Hetzner at email@example.com.