Building the 2019 Porsche Cayenne: An insider reveals how it's done
8 September 2017 - Autoblog
Producing a car that's sold in multiple countries with widely varying tastes and expectations is not an easy thing to do.
Neither is producing one that's highly customizable, with owners able to specify everything from heated seats to pink leather wrapping the air vents. And it's not like it's simple to produce a car in substantial numbers, especially a premium one.
Well, wrap all of those challenges together and what you have is the 2019 Porsche Cayenne. The coordination required to make sure every unit that rolls down the line meets the same exacting standards is staggering, not to mention that it's exactly what the customer or dealer wanted. You don't want someone's custom-order blue seats ending up in the wrong car.
The man ultimately in charge of making sure it all goes according to plan is Albrecht Reimold, the member of the executive board in charge of production and logistics for Porsche. We sat down with him after the launch of the 2019 Cayenne to talk about the challenges that go into building such a customizable car in such relatively large numbers.
According to Reimold, there will be one or maybe two Cayennes built with each possible combination of model, features and color scheme. If you've ever "built" a Porsche online, you might have an idea of how that's possible. That type of customization is commonplace in cars like Rolls-Royces and Bentleys produced in very low numbers and with very large price tags. Porsche, by contrast, is doing such customization on a larger scale at a lower price point (relatively speaking, of course). Really, the 911 would be impressive enough given its yearly sales (about 9,000 in the United States last year), but the Cayenne is another animal entirely with nearly double those sales.
To do that, Reimold praises the logistical systems that have been put in place to coordinate the myriad suppliers, the dealers and the production line. He also points out another element of complexity: time.
"It's a great challenge to deliver the right car at the right promised time," he said. "You cannot have a customer waiting for their car longer than promised."
This is especially true in Porsche's top markets of the United States and China, where customer patience for waiting for their car is notoriously short. Ordering and waiting for a car at all is generally anathema in both car markets, so making sure the wait time isn't longer than the few months claimed is paramount.
And then there's the matter of quality control. Making sure every car and every part is of equal quality is tough enough, yet this is a company that allows its customers to specify virtually any paint or leather color they'd like.
According to Reimold, every customer request must go through the same vigorous testing as a stock part. For instance, if you want that pink leather on the air vents, Porsche must make sure that it looks the same in different lighting and will wear the same over time as "off the shelf" selections like black or Saddle Brown.
To make it all happen, Reimold said it takes a higher-quality worker to deal with such complexity and quality control.
For the 2019 Cayenne, though, things will at least be getting a bit simpler. The production line will now be entirely located at Volkswagen Group's facility in Bratislava, Slovakia, along with its platform mates, the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga and Volkswagen Touareg. By contrast, the previous-generation Cayenne's body in white and interior were produced in Bratislava and then shipped to Porsche's facility in Leipzig where it was completed. Despite the move to a facility not strictly dedicated to Porsche, Reimold insists that the logistical systems have remained the same.
He also pointed out that Porsche's logistical capabilities for customization make it easier to meet the demands of different markets. For instance, Chinese customers have flashier tastes, preferring brighter colors, chrome trim and more features that better call attention to their success. Well, if they want that, Porsche already has the machinations in place to make their customers happy. There's really no need to make different versions for China, the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
"One of our key success factors is to deliver cars the way people want," Reimold said. Well, that's quite literally easier said than done, yet he certainly seems to pull it off.