LOS ANGELES - With its design center in Germany overrun with work orders, Porsche Engin-eering Services Inc. has opened a styling studio in Huntington Beach, Calif., to handle the heavier workload.
The 18,000-square-foot studio opened March 1. It was purchased from Samsung Motors Inc., which had bought it from International Automotive Design in 1996.
While Toyota, Nissan and others have opulent California design studios on massive plots of land, Porsche's version is a stealth bunker, just another tenant in a nondescript industrial strip on a busy street a mile from the beach. No signs are visible from the street.
OUTSIDE CLIENTS ONLY
In the United States, Porsche Engineering Services has concentrated on engineering, helping clients with concepts and body design from the first stage of vehicle development and packaging through optimizing body structure.
But when it came to taking the engineering know-how through
to the design level, all requests had to go through Porsche AG's Weiss-ach, Germany, studio. And that studio, already loaded up with Porsche projects, was unable to handle much outside work, said August Hofbauer, CEO of Porsche Engineering Services in Troy, Mich.
'We needed to expand our styling capacity because Weissach was occupied. We wanted to make sure we could satisfy the demands of our customers,' Hofbauer said.
The new studio will be entirely for outside clients; no Porsche vehicles will be styled in California, Hofbauer said. But the studio will draw on the resources of both the Troy office and Porsche's German research and development operations, he said.
Already, the new studio has one contract and is negotiating with three other automakers. Porsche declined to name clients.
'The advantage we have here is that an empty building startup would take six to 12 months to get into the position to support clients. Here Porsche can hit the ground running,' said studio director Neil Brooker, who held the same title when the studio was owned by Samsung.
For Porsche, Brooker has retrieved some of the top talent that bailed out when Samsung announced the studio would be closed in November. He already has six staffers back, and the studio should have between 12 and 20 employees by year end.
What's more, the studio has the capability to build a full-scale model within its walls, with computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing power, three surface plates; metalworking, woodworking and fiberglass work-up rooms; paint mix and paint shop facilities; and welding and lathe operations, Brooker said. All told, the studio has about $5 million in equipment.
And while the studio wants to be able to take a client from step one through finished build, Porsche will do one-off show cars from clients' renderings if requested, Brooker said.
Why California, instead of closer to Porsche's Troy engineering center? Said Hofbauer: 'We wanted to be in California specifically because the cultural environment and lifestyle created a place that supports creativity and automotive enthusiasm.'