I read with interest today that the Porsche 911 is only on its fourth all new platform since it was first conceived in the 1960’s.
Get the basics right first time and then don’t mess with the winning formula seems a great business model to have. All the German auto manufacturers do it – the Audi A4 available today is remarkably similar to the 1997 vintage I was driving around in ten years ago – but Porsche really is the past master; you don’t need to wonder what the next new Porsche will look like because you already know – it will look like a Porsche.
And while it must be the most boring job in the world to be Porsche’s chief designer (‘Hi Hans, have you finished the new designs yet?’ ‘Ya, ya.’ ‘Do they look just like the old ones?’ ‘Ya, how did you know?’), I think it’s probably the single most important reason to explain how these German cars can attract the premium prices that they do. Sure, they are technically innovative, a joy to drive and well built (sorry, we’re not allowed to say ‘built’ when referring to German cars, I mean they are well ‘engineered’, let’s try that again, ‘engineered’), but so are Jags, Volvos and Lexi (the plural of Lexus according to Alan Partridge).
However, these other brands have a habit of periodically radically redesigning their offerings. And while the new model line up always looks whizzo and fabby-do I’m sure there always lurks a nagging doubt in the mind of any potential buyer that they may be about to buy the equivalent of an x-type – the car that was so good Jag stopped making not just the current version, but all versions. And even if you do buy the car whose development continues, it’s resale value is going to be pennies when the space-age new incarnation comes out in a couple of year’s time.
Buy German however and the new model positively vindicates how clever sir was to buy the previous model. ‘Sir was absolutely right to buy a 3-series, even we at BMW could barely improve on it, sir is sooo clever’. Consequently second-hand Bimmers keep their value which means the new ones can sell for top wonga.
Who needs a marketing department when your designers are doing the job for you?