Dieselgate

Despite diesel recall, Porsche will push on

oliver blume, porsche ceo interview
Down but not out. Source: Reuters

A month after Germany ordered Volkswagen subsidiary Porsche to recall thousands of its Cayenne sports utility vehicles due to emissions violations, the company’s says it won’t stop producing diesel versions of the popular SUV.

“Fact is, the new Cayenne will also be available in diesel,” Porsche CEO Oliver Blume told Handelsblatt in an interview.

Mr. Blume said a software update for the affected vehicles had already been submitted to Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority, known as the KBA, and that Porsche expected regulators to give the improved code the green light in the coming weeks.

The Porsche recall was unique insofar as it happened to a company that does not develop its own diesel engines. The compromised motors in question came from Audi, another Volkswagen subsidiary.

Mr. Blume said Porsche was already working on a software update for the diesel Cayenne SUVs when the government ordered the recall, but he refused to blame Audi for any deceptive practices, saying customers should hold the company responsible from which they purchased their vehicle.

“As a customer, I wouldn’t care what a manufacturer had bought,” he said. “We take responsibility for the entire vehicle, whether it’s a component from a supplier or not.”

As for phasing out diesel vehicles at Porsche entirely, Mr. Blume said such a decision would be met with too much resistance in some European markets. Plus, he added, the company wouldn’t be able to fill the gap with regular gas or hybrid cars.

“We take the liberty of deciding for every new product in every market whether a diesel version should be offered or not,” Mr. Blume said. “This can lead to an earlier phaseout in some markets, while in others it may take longer.”

porsche infographic

Instead of moving away from diesel engines in the short term, Mr. Blume said Porsche would spend the next 10 years selling a variety of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles, hybrids and electric cars, referring to this time frame as a “transition period.”

“It also depends how other technologies develop,” he said.

Mr. Blume admitted that the diesel cheating scandal that began at its parent company VW two years ago was a likely reason why sales of some of the company’s hybrid models had increased.

“With the Panamera, for instance, 19 percent of vehicles sold are plug-in hybrids. That exceeds our own expectations,” he said. “In Germany, this almost certainly has to do with the diesel debate.”

That discussion has seen at least one judge in Germany order a general ban on diesel vehicles. In July, an administrative court in Stuttgart, a southern city notorious for its air pollution and home to Porsche and Daimler, ruled that such a ban was the only way to protect citizens from levels of nitrogen oxide that are often twice the legal limit.

Mr. Blume said he didn’t hold much regard for such bans, adding they were not a panacea. “It punishes people who live in cities. They can hardly be forced to buy a new car,” he said.

 

Grischa Brower-Rabinowitsch, head of the companies and markets desk, and Stefan Menzel, an editor covering the car industry, conducted the interview for Handelsblatt. Chris Cottrell adapted this story for Handelsblatt Global.

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