Deutsch Carmakers in Chaos—or in Rebuild Mode?

2011 BMW 6 Series rendering

2011 BMW 6 Series rendering

If the Japanese are apologizing all over the place and praising each other’s cars, the Germans are doing anything but. My outsider’s view sees their industry in some turmoil, with major players repositioning themselves in alternate markets and competing vigorously, not to say incomprehensibly, with one another. The German car industry is thrashing around to rejig itself for profits when the market comes back. The Japanese realize they, too, must make big changes. GM is closing down Saturn.

We’ve written before that Porsche hopes to sell 150,000 cars per year. To do this, they will have to downscale considerably, and that means producing cheaper and smaller cars (in which there is profit, as we know, though you have to sell a helluva lot more of them).

The head of Porsche R&D, Wolfgang Durheimer, recently confirmed the plan, which is basically to develop new cars, including

a much cheaper model than the Boxster (which [is] the cheapest Porsche in the present) but also a compact SUV, smaller than the Cayenne which could be a rival to the upcoming BMW X3 but also for the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK.

2011 6 Series, front rendering

2011 6 Series, front rendering

That is, they are not only downscaling, but going after the competition. One infers that they clearly believe the German auto market will be stronger (and get there sooner) than most others, and I’ll bet they’re right. BMW is putting out the word that its totally restyled 6 Series will be “stunning, the best-looking car BMW has done in years.” Trouble is, no one has seen anything yet but a bunch of spy photos and renderings, the most credible being the rear-end shot (top) and the front end on MotorAuthority (below). The others don’t look all that radical to me, but the new car signifies the end of the Chris Bangle years, which is something we can all celebrate.

What’s your opinion of Porsche’s downscaling-to-come? Is it the right move, or does it sell out their traditional appeal?

—jgoods

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