Today it’s known throughout the world as a luxury car brand and racing organization, but many don’t know the rich history of the company we know today as Porsche. With its roots in World War II, growth in the golden era through today, Porsche has gone through many ups and downs. If you’re a fan of high-performance vehicles, you’re sure to enjoy this – let’s explore more about Porsche’s history and milestones.
World War II: The Beginnings
Founded by Ferdinand Porsche in 1931, initially under the name “Dr. Ing. h. C. F. Porsche GmbH”, the company started out a long way away from where they stand today in the luxury car market. In fact, their business model in the early years consisted of consultant-only and development-based automobile work. That all changed, when in 1938 under commission of the German government, Ferdinand finalized his design for one of the most successful cars of all time — the Volkswagen Beetle. That’s right, “The Bug” pre-dated any high-performance Porsche, and even served as the basis for the company’s first car, the Porsche 64 in 1939. However, the consumer side of Porsche slowed with the outbreak of World War II. Volkswagen turned its attention to military-skewed models of the Beetle, while Porsche designed and produced super-heavy tanks and chassis. With the Allies closing in and revolting group of forced workers, the Volkswagen factory fell in 1945 to the British. Ferdinand was arrested for major war crimes and held in prison for 20 months. While Ferdinand was serving his sentence, his son Ferry Porsche (after serving a short six-month stint in jail himself) was busy building his own car, simply because he couldn’t find one that he wanted to buy. He barely kept the company’s head above water, until August 1947 when his father was released. The next year, the men developed the first model of what was to become the Porsche 356, gaining enough pre-orders from auto dealers throughout Germany to go into production. 52 units of the 356 were produced in its initial year.
Growing During the Golden Age
After the war, Porsche came roaring back, with a win at the Grand Prix in 1947 and the growing popularity of the 356 into the early 50s. 1952 saw the Porsche 550, their most popular race car, released to great acclaim as it dominated 1.1- and 1.5-liter classes. The car also has a dark footnote in its history in that it’s the car that James Dean was driving when he died. However, Porsche mustered through yet again, ushering in a new era of high-performance automobiles through the 1960s. They retired the 356 and released the iconic Porsche 911 in ‘63, debuting at the year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. The car is still in production today, making it (along with the Beetle) one of the longest, continually produced cars ever.
Read more about the most popular Porsches of all time
By 1975, the boxer-engine Porsche 911 had already undergone many upgrades and transformations already, culminating in the production of the first turbocharged model, the Turbo 3.0 – the fastest car of its time. Over the years, the car has become Porsche’s most successful on the racetrack and in terms of sales.
Establishing a Name for the Long Term
The 1970s brought much-needed change within the company’s structure, helping to maximize the growth potential of Porsche as a company. Most notably, the company switched from a limited partnership, mostly made up of family members, to a public limited company with a diverse executive board. This caused Porsche family members F.A. and Ferdinand Piëch to split off, one founding their own company and one eventually becoming Chairman of Volkswagen. But, change was for the best, as Ferry Porsche properly predicted that the company could not properly scale when limited by familial hindrances. This led to a new CEO of Porsche AG being appointed, engineer Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann. Under his leadership, Porsche came out with the high-powered Fuhrmann Engine found in Carrera and Spyder models. Into his tenure however, the man pushed ideas within the company to shutter the 911 line, which we now know has lasted longer than any other. With his replacement, it led to a string of less-than-stellar CEO picks, including Peter Schutz and Arno Bohn, the latter of whom oversaw a sharp decline in sales and huge losses on the development of the 989. Next up for the position was long-time Porsche employee Heinz Brantizki, who then ceded power to Wendelin Wideking shortly after his appointment. With Wiedeking now at the helm, the company finally had a leader who could restructure the organization into a leaner and more efficient organization. Profits grew through the 90s and staved off many takeover attempts by larger companies, while hitting the one-million-cars-produced mark by 1996.
Still Going Strong Today
From the late 1990s, through the two thousands and into 2020, Porsche has continued to grow and maintain its reputation as a top-performing race team and luxury sports car manufacturer. New production facilities in 2002, renewed interest in the 2006 911 and the development of their first four-door sedan (Panamera), kept the brand alive into the new millenium. Today, the company has taken big strides by adapting to a new automobile market, releasing their first fully electric vehicle, the Taycan, and rolling out an industry-first vehicle subscription plan known as “Passport”.
Do you love high-performance machines?
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