The possibility of a Porsche sport-utility appeared to gain more credibility last week as Porsche Cars North America Inc. announced plans to move from Reno, Nev., to Atlanta next March.
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'Atlanta offers potential for expansion, with the added possibility of providing North American manufacturing capability for Porsche at some future date,' said Bob Farley, director of the Atlanta office of Deloitte & Touche/Fantus Consulting, which conducted Porsche's search for a new corporate headquarters.
That statement drew a gasp from Porsche. The company is anxious not to encourage rumors of a North American plant. The plant, in turn, would likely build a sport-utility.
Porsche AG has confirmed it is considering a sport-utility. But Bob Carlson, spokesman for Porsche Cars North America, said it is much too early to talk about building a North American plant for it - or a plant anywhere else, for that matter.
FAR FROM A DECISION
First and foremost, Porsche has not decided whether to build it, Carlson said. Porsche also would need a joint venture partner for such a project, he said. Those issues have to be settled before the question of where to build it, Carlson said.
Porsche's move also settles an issue that caused a lot of head-scratching over the years - why did Porsche move to Reno, of all places? The nine-hour time difference between Reno and Stuttgart meant the work day between the two never overlapped.
Porsche moved to Reno in 1984, when it terminated its U.S. distribution agreement with Volkswagen of America.
At the time, Porsche intended to reinvent its U.S. distribution. Dealers would basically be order takers, and orders would be filled from two U.S. distribution points: one in Charleston, S.C., which would receive cars by ship; and the other in Reno, which would get some of its cars overland from West Coast ports, and some by air, in a free-trade zone.
'The original plan called for 747s full of cars to Reno,' Carlson said. 'They even had their own pad built to accommodate 747s. It was never used.'
IT DIDN'T FLY
A dealer revolt meant the new distribution system never got off the ground, either, although it did have one feature that has since caught on: no-dicker sticker prices. Ironically, the idea back then was to keep dealers from charging more than sticker. That problem took care of itself within a few years.
Porsche, Volkswagen and Audi were the first European brands to move their U.S. headquarters out of the Northeast. Saab and Lotus followed, and now Porsche joins them in the Atlanta area.
Like Saab did when it pulled out of Connecticut in 1991, Porsche is leaving most of its staff behind.
Porsche will move only about 35 of its 100 Reno employees to Atlanta and scale the total payroll down to about 90 people. The other 55 will be recruited locally.