DETROIT – Porsche AG pulls the wraps off a special-edition Boxster S, meant to commemorate the 50 th anniversary of the Porsche 550 Spyder, as the German auto maker looks to continue strong sales growth.
Boxster S production will be limited to 1,953 units.

Only 1,953 of the special-edition Porsche Boxster S models, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show here, will be built. Priced at $59,900 in the U.S. and C$85,300 in Canada, the car goes on sale in North America in March.

Distinguishing the model is special badging – “50 Years of the 550 Spyder” – and a more powerful version (264 hp) of the car’s 3.2L flat-6 engine.

The roadster also gets a shorter-throw 6-speed manual transmission, special exhaust system with stainless-steel tailpipe and Spyder-type appearance cues, including seatback shells, silver metallic paint and cocoa-brown soft top.

The new model has a top speed of 165 mph (266 km/h) and hits 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standstill in 5.7 seconds, Porsche says.

The car marks the 50th anniversary of the 550 Spyder that debuted at the Paris auto show in 1953. Porsche says more than 150,000 Boxsters have been sold since the car’s inception in the mid-1990s, nearly half of those in the U.S.

“At the start of the project, we only anticipated an annual production of 15,000 vehicles, even in our wildest dreams,” says Hans Riedel, head of worldwide sales. “Even now, toward the end of the Boxster model cycle, we are still exceeding that target.”

Porsche, which has enjoyed double-digit sales increases in nine of the last 10 years, expects worldwide deliveries for this fiscal year ending July 31 to reach 70,000-75,000 units, up from 66,803 in the last fiscal year.

“It we do 70,000, that’s a good number,” Riedel says. “It allows us to keep our independence.”

Riedel declines to provide growth targets beyond that, saying Porsche is working on getting the right number of people in place and improving its sales and service operations to handle the higher volume.

Emerging markets, such as China, will play a role in future growth, Riedel says. Porsche recently opened two dealerships in Beijing and one in Shanghai, and expects to have 11 in place there by 2005, when Riedel says sales should hit 1,000 vehicles annually.

In North America, Porsche expects current fiscal-year unit sales to total 35,000 units. Sales currently are running 67% ahead of the previous year, but that pace won’t be sustained because a year ago the importer still hadn’t launched its hot Cayenne cross/utility.

“Our strategy to use the Cayenne to attract new Porsche customers seems to be working,” says Riedel. “Worldwide, only 18% of those buying Cayenne vehicles are existing Porsche owners.

“Eighty-two percent are driving away a car with a Porsche logo on the hood for the first time. In other words, we are successfully eating away at competitors’ market shares with our sporty ‘made in Germany’ off-road vehicle.”