Porsche is studying a new approach in the lucrative Chinese market – less power. Automotive News Europe reports that the famed German manufacturer will sell less powerful versions of the 718 Cayman and Boxster in the People’s Republic. In fact, the new cars are already on Porsche’s Chinese consumer page.
The hope, 718 chief Jan Roth told Automotive News Europe, is to replicate the success Porsche’s sister company Audi has had with the TT.”A lot of the TTs that Audi sells in China, the smaller displacement 1.8-liter versions with rear-wheel instead of all-wheel-drive, are priced below that, Mercedes too,” Roth said. We’re guessing the comments about rear-wheel drive and a 1.8-liter engine are either typos or something was lost in translation, because Audi’s Chinese website only lists a 2.0-liter engine, and most gearheads know the TT rides on a front-drive platform.
Audi’s success is largely down to price – 542,800 yuan ($81,549, at today’s rates) for a base TT. Roth called 600,000 yuan “a magical threshold for customers in China.” To hit that price point, Porsche is dropping the 718’s 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder – offered North America and Europe with 300 horsepower in base form – to 250 ponies. The Cayman starts at 588,000 yuan ($88,340) while the Boxster is 598,000 yuan ($89,842). The 350-hp Cayman S will carry on unchanged.
According to ANE, Roth said Porsche’s Chinese strategy could drive 718 sales up to 4,500 units a year by 2017, nearly double the 2,500 Boxsters and Caymans sold in 2015. Could a similar lower-tiered strategy work in the US?
We’ll need to put on our speculation hats. In the US, the base car is about 81 percent of the price of the 350-horsepower S model. If Porsche were to offer the same discount for the hypothetical, 250-hp 718s, it could set the starting prices at $43,659 for the Cayman and $45,360 for the Boxster.
That lines up neatly with the $43,500 TT Coupe, but this theoretical 250-hp Boxster would fall about $1,640 less than Audi’s soft top. We shouldn’t forget Porsche’s expansive options catalog – we doubt there’d be a lot of sub-$50,000 718s on dealer lots. But still, slashing over $10,000 off the price of a $54,000 car is a big ask – Porsche would almost have to de-content such a lower-tier model.
But – and this is a Kim K-sized but – moving the 718 downmarket would open the brand to a new range of consumers. Not only would these new cars be the cheapest sportscars from Porsche money could buy. In any case, Porsche’s US sales are fine – in 2015, the Boxster/Cayman outsold the TT nearly six to one. And that’s probably all we really need to know.