There was good news and bad news as the Porsche 911 approached its 30th anniversary year. The bad news came mostly from the sales staff and the accountants.
The 1993 Porsche 911 RS America's fewer frills saved 70 pounds and $10,000.
For starters, deliveries to America were down again: to 4,115 units in calendar '92, then just 3,729 in '93. Worldwide production was still sliding, too, from more than 22,000 for model-year '92 to 15,082 for '93. The Porsche 911 accounted for the vast majority of all these totals. Sad to say, the Targa was no more, dropped after '92 as a money-saving measure after years of losing sales to the Cabriolet.
Saving money was paramount, because Porsche had been losing it by the carload -- $130 million in 1992 alone, a huge sum for a small independent automaker. In fact, Porsche was by now flirting with bankruptcy.
Stern measures were overdue, so there was no little interest surrounding the 1993 appointment of 40-year-old Wendelin Wiedeking as chairman and CEO. As events soon proved, he was the right man at the right time.
Porsche certainly needed a new chief with both brains and courage. As Business Week summarized in June 2000, "the previous 15 years had seen a succession of CEOs who tried and failed to manage both the Porsche business and the fickle Porsche family that owns it. By the time Wiedeking came on the scene, years of poor decision-making had left Porsche adrift." Even so, the decline was not apparent to most outsiders, Porsche customers included.
With a background in materials, machine tools, and production engineering, Wiedeking joined Porsche in 1983, the year he earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering. After serving as project manager for the paint and body shops at the then-new Stuttgart plant, he left in 1988 to work for two German metals firms, then returned to Porsche in 1992 as spokesman for the company's operational Board of Management before being named Board chairman and CEO.
Despite his fondness for Porsche -- or perhaps because of it -- the new Doctor-in-charge prescribed a heavy dose of "tough love." Wasting no time, he cut production, slashed the workforce a hefty 25 percent, and brought in Japanese engineers to teach Porsche about more-efficient production methods.
Wiedeking also euthanized Porsche's fading front-engine 928 and 968 models and brokered a new entry-level car, the Boxster, that would further trim overhead by sharing many parts with a totally redesigned new-generation Porsche 911. And the shakeup had only begun.
Later, to meet surprisingly strong demand, Wiedeking outsourced Boxster production, again to the chagrin of many company veterans. He even let Porsche be kicked off the Frankfurt stock exchange because he didn't like filing quarterly reports that let competitors in on secret plans. Most daring of all, perhaps, was Wiedeking's long-range plan for Porsche to develop a sport-utility vehicle as a hedge against future downturns in sports-car sales.
Though Wiedeking had yet to make his mark in 1992, the year brought some good news for Porsche 911 fans: a new RS America coupe. Reaching U.S. showrooms that April as an early 1993 offering, it bucked the trend of ever-costlier Porsches by listing for $10,000 less than a standard $64,000 Carrera 2. Car and Driver aptly termed it "a frill-less 911, one that sheds 70 pounds of fluff and looks pure and ready for some serious fun."
That "fluff" involved the air conditioning (made optional at $2,940), power steering (not available for any sum), stereo, the token rear seats, even the armrests (replaced by simple pull handles). But buyers did get a whale tail instead of the smaller auto-extending spoiler, plus the inch-wider wheels and tires that cost $1,352 extra on a C2.
Owners also got the best performance yet in a non-turbo 911. C/D's example rushed through the 0-60 sprint in 4.6 seconds and scaled the standing quarter-mile in 13.3 seconds at 105 mph. With that, the magazine labeled the RS a "foolproof way to convert almost anyone into a full-lather Porsche-phile." Road & Track's numbers were only a bit less stunning: 5.3 seconds to 60 and 13.8 at 102.5 mph in the quarter.
Alas, the RS America appealed scarcely more than the 1988 Club Sport, and only some 300 were built in 1993. Although it looked another "instant collectible" 911, R&T concluded that a "mothballed classic is not what the RS America is meant to be. Spirited, even frisky, this 911 is a thoroughbred designed to do one thing really well: run like a Preakness winner."
So full credit is due to Porsche for what it was able to achieve. Despite a growing mound of business problems, Zuffenhausen was still willing to deliver a pur sang GT, even though only a few might want one. Most other automakers wouldn't have bothered.
And what of the Porsche 911's 30th birthday? Though fans the world over staged their own celebrations, Porsche's dire business situation delayed an official observance to late 1993 for Europe and early 1994 for the U.S. But, boy, was it worth the wait.
Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:
|Porsche 356 ||Porsche 911 ||Porsche 914 |
|Porsche 924, 944, 968 ||Porsche 928||Porsche 959|
|Porsche Boxster||Porsche Cayenne||Porsche Cayman|
For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:
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- 2007 Porsche 911
- 1999-2006 Porsche 911
- 1995-1998 Porsche 911