Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – Porsche AG CEO Wendelin Wiedeking defends his company against Greenpeace environmentalists’ claims his cars are “climate pigs,” announcing at the international auto show here a hybrid-electric Cayenne cross/ utility vehicle in development that will improve mileage 30% to 31 mpg (7.6 L/100 km).

A cutaway model of the Cayenne showing Porsche’s upcoming parallel hybrid-electric powertrain is on display at the brand’s auto show stand.

“Never before has Porsche offered the press and the public to inspect and experience a new car concept so early prior to its launch in the market,” Wiedeking says.

In addition to the Hybrid Cayenne concept, Porsche also introduced the 911 GT2 and Cayenne GTS.

The Porsche hybrid powertrain, being developed in cooperation with Audi AG and Volkswagen AG for a future Q7 and Tourag, respectively, also will be available in the Porsche Panamera sometime after its introduction in 2009, Wiedeking says.

Powered by batteries, alone, the hybrid powertrain will be capable of 78 mph (125 km/h) and fits the Cayenne chassis while losing little storage space, he says.

Wiedeking insists the German auto maker’s niche share of the European car market makes it a tiny player when it comes to fuel emissions, claiming 96.5% of carbon dioxide comes from natural sources and that transportation accounts for only a fourth of man-made CO2.

“Porsche, as a small manufacturer, contributes less than 0.1% to the overall emission of CO2 in our country,” he says of Germany.

Further buttressing his argument, Wiedeking says it’s unfair of Greenpeace to compare Porsche’s average CO2 emissions with other companies, because it only builds niche sports cars and a CUV. Plus, he says, Porsche’s fuel consumption is comparable with its rivals.

The environmental activists made “populist, unrealistic arguments,” he asserts. “Still, I do not wish to take on a position of self-justification, of an attacker simply pointing his finger at others.”

All the same, Wiedeking says Porsche has reduced its vehicle-fuel consumption an average of 1.7% per year for the past 15 years. It abandoned an engine for the Cayenne after only four years to substitute the current direct-injection model, which is 15% more fuel-efficient.

And by 2012, he says Porsche’s fuel efficiency will be 20% better than it was in 1995.

As for other emissions, Wiedeking says “starting next year, all Porsche sports cars will fulfill not only the strict Euro 5 emission standard coming into force in September 2009 but also Euro 6 not scheduled for validity until September 2014.”

Porsche gasoline engines now can use E10 ethanol-blended gasoline, and the auto maker is developing a flexible-fuel vehicle capable of burning E85.

Wiedeking’s environmental trump card is Porsche’s own history. “At the age of 25, Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of our company, developed the Lohner-Porsche electric car in Vienna in the year 1900,” he says.

“Combining a combustion engine and an electric motor, the Lohner-Porsche was able to save energy in a battery and was, therefore, what you might call the first production car in the world with hybrid drive.”

Hybrids only now are making progress, “because they have battery systems which can take a charge quickly,” Wiedeking says, earning a round of applause when he urges the German auto industry to regain strength in battery development.

“We must fight for Germany,” he declares. “We must offer the best technology also in this sector.”

Meanwhile, although Porsche is not a full-line vehicle maker, it does own 31% of Volkswagen shares. Wiedeking says no decision has been made about adding to its investment.

He fully expects the so-called “Volkswagen Law” in Germany to be declared illegal, which would raise Porsche’s voting rights from 20% to the 31% of its ownership share.

The law, which limits any one shareholder’s voting rights in the auto maker to 20%, regardless of its share holdings, is expected to be reviewed by a panel of judges later this year.

In addition to the upcoming hybrid-drive system, he says Porsche and Volkswagen are cooperating on electronics, which make up 30%-35% of Porsche’s costs, as well as other components.

Turning to financials, Wiedeking says Porsche’s profits in the last fiscal year that ended in July will be much better than year-ago’s €2.1 billion ($2.9 billion).

Sales rose from €7.1 billion ($9.8 billion) to €7.4 billion ($10 billion) in the period, he says, including the sale of Porsche’s CTS car-top systems to Magna International Inc. Combined worldwide deliveries of the 911, Boxster and Cayenne inched up 0.7% to 97,515 units.