Porsche's new sport-utility vehicle, to be built as part of a joint venture with VW, is due for launch in 2002. Wendelin Wiedeking, chairman of Porsche AG, talked to Automotive News Europe's Dorothee Ostle about the company's plans for the luxury off-roader.
You expect North America to be the main market for your new sport-utility. Have you considered a US production site for the car?
We have been looking at all possibilities, including a production site in North America. But our studies clearly show that US customers expect a Porsche to be a European product with European flair.
The BMW and Mercedes-Benz marques both have successful production sites in America. The BMW Z3 (built in Spartanburg, South Carolina) and the Mercedes-Benz M-class (built in Vance, Alabama) enjoy strong demand from American customers.
Vital parts for both cars are made in Germany, exported and then just added to the production process in the USA. Our studies have shown that 70 percent of M-class customers are not aware of the fact that the car is American-made. But Porsche customers are a lot more focused on the product, the tradition, and our European origins. They are willing to pay a premium price as long as their Porsche is produced in Europe, according to our study.
What about eastern Europe?
I cannot say where American buyers' perception of Europe ends. All I can say is that the production of the Porsche Boxster at Valmet in Finland is well known by our American customers, and they perceive the product to be typically European. Also the quality of cars from Valmet is the same as Porsches made in Germany.
When will you decide where to produce your new sport-utility?
A few suppliers have not been selected yet. The decision on where to locate a production site partly depends on the supply chain. We are under no pressure to announce a decision. I think we will be able to announce a plant location in the autumn.