Porsche’s U.S. Diesel Strategy: An Interview with Wolfgang Hatz

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Diesel Buyers, the 911 Diesel Question, Next Generation DieselsDSC_0643

JS:      Will there ever be a 911 diesel?

WH:    You never know – and people always ask me this question.  But for right now and the foreseeable future, we have no plans to offer one

JS:      To what do you attribute the success of diesel, especially from a personal standpoint?

WH:    For me, it’s the combination of fun on the gas station and fun to drive.  That is what really makes diesel a success.  The torque makes the car very much fun to drive and the high efficiency means fun by not having to stop at the pump [as often].  Right now, our V8 diesel in the Cayenne in Europe is the most powerful diesel engine in the world and the reaction has been unbelievable.

JS:      Will we see that engine in the U.S. too?

WH:    Not at the moment. We have started to test the [U.S.] market with the V6 Cayenne.  This will give us a chance to check out diesel and see how it is perceived by our customers.   You will probably see diesel versions of the next-generation Cayenne as well and possibly in the Panamera.

JS:      What about hybrid diesels?

WH:    Right now we have a hybrid but we haven’t really gone down that road.  Hybrid diesel is a combination that is the most expensive possible.  I don’t se that as major highest priority at Porsche. We will rely on gas, plug-ins, and pure diesel as our strategy for now but you never know.

JS:      What attracts a car buyer to diesel today?

WH:    It is a combination of two factors, great fuel economy and excellent performance.  This combination is not possible otherwise with alternatives including hybrid, ethanol, synfuel, and hydrogen.

JS:      What kind of buyers are you seeing for the diesel and what is their reaction?

WH:    They are surprised about the truck. That is what and how they feel. We [at Porsche] talk always about horsepower but the customer feels torque and they are very much surprised about the high torque and how much fun it is.   Let me tell you about a friend of mine who lives in Bolzano (Bozen).  He called me up as he was thinking of selling an SUV from another automaker.  I arranged for him to test drive the Cayenne Diesel and he purchased it on the spot.  That has been the reaction of customers after they drive the car.

JS:      What about the price of diesel fuel?

WH:    Clearly, diesel prices are volatile but there is little as an auto manufacturer that we can do.  I was on a call with the CEO of Exxon-Mobil discussing the situation and the pricing but there are many external factors that impact the price.  Regardless, diesel is the fuel of the future.

JS:      Looking at Volkswagen Group, for which you until recently had responsibility, how do you view diesel?

WH:    As of 3 months, I am just in charge of R&D at Porsche, it was too much to try to do everything.  Diesel is a huge success. VW sales are about 25% diesel.  There are some cars with 50% or even 80% take rates.  The diesel automobile is a very important pillar for VW and now for Audi, it is becoming more and more important.  I believe you are well aware that new diesel-powered Audis are coming to the U.S.  Put differently, it’s simple: Volkswagen is diesel.  Look at the success of Volkswagen diesel cars in America.  The Jetta SportWagen, that is my type of car.  The Jetta TDI sedan is selling so well that it is hard to keep enough inventory.  The fact that Volkswagen is the volume leader in diesel in the U.S. is no surprise to me given the lineup we have.

JS:      What about other diesel models for the U.S., perhaps the Cayenne Diesel S for example?

WH:    This will be a Volkswagen Group decision.  If other divisions certify the 4.2-liter engine for emissions, you will certainly see it in the Cayenne but it’s not a decision we [Porsche] can make alone.

JS:      What would you like to say directly to readers of The Diesel Driver magazine?

WH:    Good question. It’s clear to me that diesel has a bright future given its many advantages including a very powerful and very efficient green engine.  I personally have pushed for offering diesels in the U.S. and it’s clear that you [the reader] have made the right choice.

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