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Porsche Has an Identity Crisis Amid Its SUV Success

With SUVs yielding half of profits, it tries to retain its sports car cred
Porsche Has an Identity Crisis Amid Its SUV Success
Illustration by Walter Newton

Last month, Porsche Chief Executive Officer Matthias Müller attended the Gaisberg classic-car race in the alpine countryside near Salzburg to schmooze with collectors of legendary sports cars like the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gull-wing, the Alfa Romeo Spider, and the Ferrari Dino. His unspoken message: The Porsche brand still belongs in that elite company, even if its lineup is increasingly dominated by sport-utility vehicles popular with affluent suburban moms.

After veering away from tradition with models like the Cayenne SUV, which now accounts for about half its profits, Porsche is expanding its stable of purebred sports cars in a bid to shore up its reputation. The 918 Spyder, an $845,000 limited-run hybrid supercar, which will be Porsche’s most expensive model ever when deliveries start next year, may be followed by a new $250,000 model to take on superrich toys such as the Ferrari 458 Italia or McLaren MP4-12C. Müller has also tabled plans for a roadster cheaper than its $49,500 entry-level Boxster. “We always have been and still are a sports car company,” Müller says. “When there’s a model that’s not directly a sports car, it should be balanced by a pure sports car model in order to maintain our heritage.”