Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG…don’t laugh) finally put the finishing touches on a deal to purchase Porsche a few weeks back. The merger, which cost VAG $5.47 billion is the culmination of years of back and forth between the two companies. The on-again/off-again deal originally began when Porsche almost bought a managing share in VAG back in 2009, and then the roles were reversed. The deal was announced dead as recently as this past January. Now that the negotiations are over and the Euros have settled, do Porsche fans have anything to worry about? Judging by the history of the two brands, yes and no.
Quick history lesson. Without Volkswagen there would be no Porsche. End of Lesson one. Lesson Two: the current Chairman of VAG, Ferdinand Piech, is the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, the man who designed and built the legendary sports car brand. Piech had a hand in building some pretty legendary Porsche race cars including the Porsche 906 and the 917, however he is also an immensely successful businessman. Under his direction, Volkswagen has gone from a big time loser, at one point hemorraging over $1 billion dollars a year, to the second largest manufacturer in the world with profits in excess of $15 billion. With the purchase of Porsche, VAG is well on it’s way to becoming the largest manufacturer in the world by 2018.
Ferdinand Porsche was quite an engineer, he had his hand in producing the first electric car at the turn of the century, as well as producing some impressive World War I tanks and the world’s first supercar, the Mercedes Benz SSK. For this reason, the Third Reich called on him to build a car for it’s people suffering under the economic hardships of the Great Depression. The Volkswagen, which translated literally into the “People’s Car”, was affordable, light and frugal. Throughout the war, over 52,000 were produced. However, real success didn’t arrive until the post-war period when sales took off. The Beetle remained in production for 65 years and close to 22 million cars were built in total.
5. Porsche 356
The first car made under the Porsche name, the type 356 shared a lot of its parts, including engine and suspension design, from the Volkswagen. The air-cooled flat four, trailing arm suspension and the rounded aerodynamic look all came from the years spent developing the Beetle. Though the Ferdinand Porsche died very early in the car’s development, his legacy was carried on by his son Ferry who slowly moved the car away from its Volkwagen roots.
4. Porsche 914
The Porsche 914 was the first official collaboration between the two companies. With the success of the 911 throughout the 1960′s and 1970′s, Porsche wanted to sell an affordable sports car to the masses. It turned to VW for the air-cooled, flat-4 engine placed it right behind the driver, designed a cheap and light fiberglass body over it and gave it a targa roof. It was by no means good looking or fast in 1970, but it handled brilliantly, was fun to drive and it was a convertible. Girls like guys who drive convertibles. It was sold as both a Volkswagen and a Porsche car in Europe and the United States. But to be honest it was the Porsche only 914/6 that was the car to have since it featured the same motor from the 911T in the cheaper and lighter body of the 914, it was a serious performance bargain.
3. Porsche 924
Following on the success of the 914, Porsche teamed up with Volkswagen again with the 924. This time it used a 2.0-liter engine and a four-speed gearbox from Audi. The 924 was by no sense of the imagination a success. It was underpowered, the engine was in the wrong place and not air cooled, and it was ugly. The only notable cars were the turbo and GTS versions (pictured above) which were never imported to the United States. Porsche quickly scrapped the 924 and its Audi sourced motor for the 944. Though it looked similar on the outside, it featured major improvements to the brakes and suspension which would help it become one of the best handling Porsches of all time.
2. Audi RS2
The Audi RS2 could be considered one of the best cars to come out of the Porsche-Volkswagen relationship. Work on the RS2 began after Porsche’s consulting arm realized it had some extra production capactity in its Rosse-Bau factory (the same place where the 959 was built) following the completion of the autobahnstrassentank, the Mercedes 500E project. So, it approached Audi with the idea to make this beast out of its humble 80 Avant. Porsche worked its magic on the 5-cylinder turbo motor, massaging a total of 315 horsepower from the 2.2 liter, and then working the suspension over. The brakes themselves were Porsche-spec Brembo brakes. The end result was a sub 5 second 0-60 mph in a car with four-wheel drive, and enough room for the entire family. The RS2 also gave birth to the RS line of cars, which we’ve become massive fans of, especially the latest RS4.
- Say what you want about the Cayenne, but you can’t deny it is a cash-cow. Literally. The 5,500 pound SUV and its less athletic, (but better looking) brother, the Touareg, have been sales leaders for both Porsche and Volkswagen. If this is what it takes to keep the greatest sports car manufacturer alive, we’ll allow it. Besides the Cayenne GTS was supposed to come with three pedals and a stick shift. Unfortunately, it was dropped due to poor sales. At least Porsche was well intentioned, which is more than we can say for some other manufacturers.