Without VW, Porsche may have been Germany's Lotus
Tom Letourneau, a retired auto industry executive, worked for Saab Cars as its Eastern U.S. dealer development and business management manager, as well as for Porsche and Audi during their early days in the United States.
In reading the Automotive News Europe story about analysts responding favorably to Volkswagen Group's decision to take full control of Porsche's car-making business, I couldn't help but think back to my early days in the import car business.
It was the late 1960s. VW had come to the rescue of Porsche, and I was hired to be the district parts manager for Porsche and Audi in New England.
Yes, that is correct: I worked for the newly organized Porsche/Audi Division of VW in the United States.
If memory serves me correctly, VW -- wanting to gain a foothold for its Audi brand in the States -- worked out a 15-year (or so) exclusive sales and marketing deal with Porsche. Porsche at the time was pretty much sold and distributed by a number of independent distributors across the country. The standards for Porsche dealerships ranged from having a building … to not!
As often happens when such business decisions are reached and a new organization is established, the dealerships that previously held that manufacturer's franchise had to reapply. They also had to agree to adhere to new standards.
One of them: "Edifices" would need to be constructed to house the new Porsche/Audi franchise. They had to be designed by VW and/or meet its exacting approval! They also had to be exclusive and have properly factory-trained professional managers employed full time in every department!
For those who have been around long enough and knew of VW's "My way or the highway" way of doing things, there were no negotiations or debates. With the success that VW was enjoying in this country, it was hard to argue with the business model they had put in place!
Needless to say, many of the old Porsche dealers -- some of them borderline, fly-by-night outfits -- elected to opt out and have their inventory and tools re-purchased. That became a part of my job, along with setting up the new Porsche/Audi dealership parts departments and training their staff.
I am now retired after 47 years in the industry. In a small way, I feel I am one of the many individuals who helped make Porsche what it is today. Yes, the automaker has enjoyed tremendous success with its race cars. But had it not been for the moves that VW made in the late '60s when it took over sales and marketing of Porsche, we would not see Porsche as we know it today.
Porsche might have become a German version of Lotus.
VW is in large part responsible for the company that Porsche has become and will continue to be as a fully owned unit of VW.