« Taiwan to Declare Independence in 2008? | Main | How to Use Wireless as a Marketing Tool 101 »

"Two and a Half Tons of Hubris"

The Wall Street Journal has a story in today's edition on Porsche and its forthcoming SUV, the Cayenne.

The story is mostly about Porsche and only a little about the Cayenne, but what it does say about the car itself is telling:

This week the maker of the legendary 911 and the sleek Boxster convertible will roll out the Cayenne, the first non-sports car in Porsche's 54-year history.

The timing is puzzling. The stock-market plunge and the weak global economy are casting a big shadow over luxury-car sales. Porsche is offering special leasing deals in the U.S. on the two-seat Boxster for those who can't afford to buy one.

At the same time, the already-full market for SUVs is getting more crowded. This autumn, Volkswagen AG and Volvo both plan luxury sport-utility vehicles...

Many Porsche purists were shocked to hear that the company, so closely identified with sports cars, would try to stretch its brand so far.

"Would you buy a Land Rover sports car?" asks automotive Web site pistonheads.com. "Sure the Porsche Cayenne will be the world's fastest and best handling 4X4. So what?" Eagerly awaited photos of the Cayenne -- which looks closer to a nimble sports car than a rough and ready Jeep -- did little to inspire confidence when they were unveiled at the Geneva car show in early March. The day after Porsche showed the world what the car looked like, its share price fell more than 4%.

Dubbing it "two and a half tons of hubris," Automobile magazine uses its design review column in this month's issue (not available online) to bash the design of the Cayenne:

Perhaps the most startling design aspect of this giant vehicle is the utter banality of the overall shape...

I know there are passionate true believers who will brook no criticism of their beloved marque, but it is hard for me to work up much enthusiasm for an ugly Porsche that weighs three and a third times as much as my first 356 coupe, that has no redeeming individual style, and that seems both incredibly cynical and desperately late to market, entering at just about the time the wave is cresting...

Porsche can do better, and we deserve better from it.

If the Cayenne was from a lesser car company, it might be forgivable as a design exercise gone wrong. Given, though, that it is from Porsche -- in just the last decade responsible for designing the all-time classic Boxster and then for successfully updating the 911 -- it is a shockingly bad piece of work. Leaving aside the question of whether the world needs or wants another SUV right now, the Cayenne is just plain ugly. There's no other way to put it. It's not Pontiac Aztek ugly ("it wasn't beaten with the ugly stick; it is the ugly stick"), but then Porsche isn't Pontiac.

It's a shame that the Cayenne isn't a better car. I can think of at least three or four competitive cars I'd rather drive, including some cheaper than the Cayenne.

We have come to trust Porsche, and the Cayenne has the appearance of a breach of that trust. Of course, Porsche has made mistakes before, and yet they always redeem themselves. With time, Porsche will be forgiven -- and, perhaps, a bit wiser.

Post a comment