How Does One Say “Poison Your Brand” in German?

Porsche’s management is planning to add a four-door, front-engine sedan to their lineup.  I find this rather painful, as Porsche is all about – and only about – two doors and rear engines.  To be clear, it’s not about having just two seats, as the 911, and the 356 before it, proved that four-seat cars can be real sports cars.

So why roll out a four-door sedan?  Well, automakers like multiples of ten, and some MBA-type at Porsche wants to be able to grow sales to the 100k mark, something not likely with only a lineup of pure sports cars.   Porsche Chief Executive Wendelin recently stated in BusinessWeek that the key to creating shareholder value “… is to avoid a quarterly [earnings] orientation,” but it seems to me that by floating this four-door concept, Dr. Wendelin isn’t practicing what he preaches.  Shareholder value is defined as the present value of all future cash flows; if you believe, as I do, that creating a four-door Porsche will erode the brand’s hard-won equity, then it’s bound to erode long-term cash flow as well, for in an automotive landscape where a $30,000 Subaru can run with any Porsche 911, what else is there besides brand image?  No, a four-door Porsche is just a play for short-term earnings.

If they were really serious about long-term growth, Porsche the company would keep the Porsche the brand focused on making tasty sports cars, and then find another brand whose name could be used to rollout sedans without dilluting Porsche’s heritage, much as Ferrari is doing with Maserati.

Next thing you know they’ll be talking about introducing a SUV.