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Porsche was founded by Austro-Hungarian engineer Ferdinand Porsche in 1931. The company started out as an automobile developing and consulting company for Volkswagen. Porsche’s first project for Volkswagen was the creation and development of the Volkswagen Beetle. Suffice to say the Beetle has turned out to be one of the greatest automobile designs. Due to World War II Germany, both companies growth suffered stunted growth. Though Volkswagen, with the help of Porsche, was able to stay afloat by shifting production from commercial to military vehicles. In 1939 Porsche released its first marked automobile, the Porsche 64. Porsche’s company marque is based on the coat of arms of Free People’s State of Württemberg of former Weimar Germany, where the capital Stuttgart became part of Baden-Württemberg after the political consolidation of West Germany in 1949.
By December 15 1945, the Volkswagen factory had fallen into British control. And Ferdinand Porsche was imprisoned for 20 months following his indictment as a war criminal. Though behind bars the Porsche name carried on with the help of his son Ferry Porsche and the creation of the 356. With its sleek steel framed body and similar components to a beetle, this car began production on the assembly line and became a road certified car in 1948. Since its first creation the engineers of Porsche have made great advancements to the 356, including its rear air-cooled engine, and most of the VW parts were substituted with newly created Porsche parts. From this point on Porsche would release many other modernized high-speed luxury and sport vehicles.
After the release of the Porsche 356, Porsche had great success racing the 550 Spyder. And in 1964 released their most renowned model, the Porsche 911. This 6-cylinder coupe has since received many revisions, yet still remains successful on and off the track. The Porsche 911 is believed to be the most pivotal model bearing the Porsche name. In its lifespan since 1963 through today, over 50 different versions of the 911 have been created.
By 1972 inner family turmoil changed the company structure of Porsche. An executive board comprised of non-family members was instated. Along with the executive board, a supervisory board was set up so that no one member of the family could hold full control over the company. The first CEO of the restructured Porsche company was Dr. Ernst Fuhrmann who had been with the company since the development of the 356. However, Fuhrmann was quickly fired when he tried to stop production of the 911 for a different Porsche model. Porsche found it difficult to find a suitable CEO throughout the following decades.
The Following Decades
In 1990 Porsche entered into agreement with Toyota to learn and take advantage of Japanese production methods. Toyota has been able to assist Porsche with hybrid technology, which has made its way into the upcoming four-door coupe called Panamera. In 1993 following the termination of CEO Arno Bohn and after an interim CEO, Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking became CEO. Wiedeking pulled Porsche through a very vulnerable time and transformed the company into a profitable one once again. In 2002 Porsche introduced the Cayenne SUV and the upgraded Cayenne Turbo S which has the second most powerful production engine in Porsche’s history only to the Carrera GT. In 2004 the 612 horsepower Porsche Carrera GT became available in the United States for $440,000, making it the most expensive production model ever built by Porsche.
Since the beginning of Porsche, the company has had strong ties to Volkswagen. Collaboration on prototypes and vehicle models continued and in 2005 Porsche bought a large stake in the Volkswagen company. Though Porsche affirmed that they did not want to take over Volkswagen, they did want to keep the company out of competitor Daimler Crysler AG, BMW and Renault’s hands. By September 2008, Porsche had increased its shares by another 4.89%. Essentially Porsche AG then owned the Volkswagen group with over 35% of the company’s voting rights. Porsche’s ownership stakes are still increasing, on October 26, 2008, Porsche announced its intent to raise its stake in Volkswagen to 75% during 2009. On January 7, 2009 Porsche’s holding in VW was raised to 50.76%.
As for ownership in Porsche, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson, Ferdinand Piëch, was chairman and CEO of the Volkswagen Group from 1993 to 2002. He is currently chairman of the Porsche supervisory board, with 12.8 % of the Porsche voting shares. With that percentage Ferdinand Piëch is the second largest individual shareholder of Porsche AG just behind his cousin, F. A. Porsche’s 13.6 %.
From the release of their first automobile in 1939, which had a top speed of only 99mph, fast forward and Porsche has become one of the leaders in speed and luxury. The company stands strong against competitors like Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Maserati. Further exuding their confidence and automobile genius, Porsche has even offered its consulting services to other automobile companies, including some of the competition! There is much to expect in the future from a company with so much history. Porsche currently produces 911(997), Boxster and Cayman sports cars and Cayenne sport utility vehicles. The luxury marque plans to introduce its new four-door Panamera towards the middle of 2009.