With its burgeoning influence on the giant Volkswagen Group, it is becoming increasingly difficult to regard Porsche as a small company. While some niche auto businesses form a junior—if prestigious—part of global OEMs, Porsche is poised to become very much the senior element in the huge VW organization.
However, small specialist companies such as Porsche face similar technology challenges to large OEMs but can find some solutions easier to achieve.
“We do have an advantage as a small company because the decision-making process is much faster and we probably see results achieved much more quickly," said Wolfgang Dürheimer, Porsche’s Executive Vice President, Research and Development. "And our R&D center in Weissach is capable of dealing in detail with all technical problems and to look at possibilities to meet future requirements. But generally, it is not easier being a small company because we have to meet the same legal requirements as a large OEM. Brussels [the European Commission] wants no exemption for small, niche manufacturers. That hurts us very much and demonstrates again that the pressures we face are the same as those for big OEMs; a small company spending three-digit million euros every year on R&D needs quite an effort.”
The strengthening and far-reaching link with VW, though, will expand Porsche’s potential. At present, Dürheimer is not saying too much about it, although he did allude to VW’s diesel capability when questioned about the possibility of a diesel Porsche.
“We are going to be more closely involved with the biggest diesel engine manufacturer in Europe; there is a possibility that we will see a diesel Porsche in the future but not in the sports cars," he said. "However, there is a demand for a diesel in the Cayenne’s sector, but no decision on a Cayenne diesel has yet been made.”
Porsche has already given details of its forthcoming gasoline hybrid Cayenne and has said that, depending on the experience it gains, it may offer a hybrid version of the four-door Panamera saloon—slated for MY 2009.
The hybrid Cayenne is expected to provide a 30% fuel consumption improvement over the V6-powered car, with an average L/100 km figure of less than 9.0. Further improvements will come from other areas, including optimized air conditioning and stop-start capability. Some of this technology will be applied across the model ranges, but there would be different answers in different segments, said Dürheimer.
As for the possibility of a diesel hybrid, he was very cautious: “It is very difficult to make money with full hybrids, and a diesel hybrid is the most expensive solution.”
However, Dürheimer is confident that gasoline hybrid technology has “a bright future,” and that its position will strengthen with the further introduction of direct-injection engines and further improved combustion processes—including convergence technology. VW has already demonstrated the technology in concept form and it has been tested by AEI. “We will see the processes of diesel and gasoline merging in the future, without the necessity to use special biofuels,” said Dürheimer.
Diesel-engine development also needs to focus on NOx reduction, he added, but meeting required standards would probably mean having to surrender some of its consumption advantage, while continuing gasoline engine development would result in improved consumption. “But Porsche will still have high-revving—8000 rpm or more—direct-injection sports engines,” he said.