The Cayenne is a sign that Porsche is making too much money: £5,385 per car. This phenomenal, seemingly unstoppable success has given Porsche Hitlerian hubris. OK, we've done Europe. Let's invade Russia! OK, we've done sports cars. Let's take on GM, Ford, Chrysler, Land Rover, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and Mitsubishi! The fact that Porsche can't make enough Boxsters and Carreras to satisfy demand seems to have escaped the notice of their Bored of Directors. Lest they forget, the upcoming, V10-powered GT will put the company toe-to-toe with Ferrari's F60. With the Cayenne, Porsche doesn't blink so much as sneeze. Is this really the same company that agonised for years about making a four-door 928? It's as if they decided to apply their motor sport heritage to designing brief cases. Oh wait, they have.
Every man-hour Porsche spends on the Cayenne-designing, marketing, servicing, etc.- is one man-hour less for maintaining and extending their dominance in the sports car market. In other words, the Cayenne is a waste of time.
It's called "the halo effect". A range-topping super model allegedly inspires punters to buy the low-end variant. I can't afford an M3, but I can buy a Compact, which shares the same engineering bloodline. I might not be able to get to sixty under six seconds, or lap the Nurburgring in less than an hour, but hey, it's still a BMW.
God knows how you measure the halo effect's precise impact on "brand image", "market positioning" or any of the other vague concepts that keep people in suits employed. Common sense says there's something to it. If you're a parent looking at a new school, your attention is immediately drawn to the cheerful, bright-eyed student, and away from the listless dullard endlessly exploring the entertainment possibilities of a rubber band. As an automotive journalist, I welcome any trend that justifies (not to mention subsidises) my own obsession. I'm delighted that manufacturers are cranking out expensive, powerful and exclusive models. After all, I can drive them without having to pay for the privilege. Still, for certain manufacturers, the halo effect has clearly gone to their head.
FUEL FOR THOUGHT
The other day I was filling up the M5 -again- when a simple thought occurred to me: this is expensive. Fair enough. Cocaine is also expensive, and it's more addictive than the thrill you get from pressing your right foot to the Beemer's carpet. Well, OK, cocaine is slightly more addictive than powering through the upper ranges of the 5's 400bhp engine, but cocaine is ILLEGAL. Yes, yes, driving fast in this country is ALSO illegal. Damn! Where was I? Oh yes. Will I live to see the day when sports cars are powered by something other than dead dinosaur?
Given the Maybach's stupendous length (5.77 metres long), it's surprising MB didn't launch the limo in a dry dock by smashing its snout with a Magnum of Moet. In these post 9-11 times, the idea of creating a £250,000 (base price) luxury barge for Gulfstream plutocrats indicates nothing less than impending niche overdose. How many of the world's movers and shakers are stupid enough to be driven around in a machine that instantly identifies its occupants as suitable candidates for kidnapping or assassination?
C'mon, admit it. Your Subaru Impreza Turbo may corner better than Angelo Dundee at a Mohammed Ali fight, but you know it's not enough. It's a real buzz to scan the road surface for camber and cornering angle; chose the right gear, get the revs just so, and then balance throttle and grip to sashay around the corner with perfect, sublime control. But you need more. What you really want, what you really need for a proper hit of adrenalin, is to pass someone whilst doing it. It's not enough to win. Someone else must lose.
The Truth About Cars