ZELL AM SEE, Austria — No fence. No video cameras. Only a blue Porsche 911 in front of the door tells a visitor something about the resident of this 600-year-old farmhouse on an Austrian hillside. Just a stone's throw away, cable cars are floating uphill. Traffic hums along on the national highway below.
"Come right in — it's cold out," Wolfgang Porsche says. The Porsche clan has owned Schuettgut in Zell am See since 1941. Wolfgang Porsche acquired it from his family in 2004. A wood-paneled corridor leads into a comfortable living room past deer antlers and cowbells. The housekeeper serves coffee and homemade pastries.
The house is the center of life for Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the supervisory board of sports car maker Porsche and head of the family that controls Volkswagen Group. He spends time here between supervisory board meetings and business appointments. The family's legendary crisis meeting took place here in 1972. It culminated in the family's withdrawal from business operations at Porsche. Wolfgang's cousin, Ferdinand Piech, is said to have made his famous declaration to the rest of the clan: "You are domestic pigs. I'm the wild boar."
Wolfgang, who turned 75 this month, is the son of Porsche founder Ferry Porsche and grandson of Volkswagen Beetle designer Ferdinand Porsche. He rarely gives interviews, but on this day he is meeting with Automotive News sister publication Automobilwoche.
Porsche discusses the future of VW Group, including the company's recent change of CEOs. He also touches on topics such as electrification, his concerns about bureaucratic overregulation and his relationship — or lack thereof — with his famous cousin, whom he helped oust in a power struggle three years ago. He also talks about what it is like to go through life with the name Porsche.
What does Schuettgut mean to you?
Schuettgut is my home. I was actually born in Stuttgart, but we moved shortly after my birth. I spent part of my childhood here, playing hide-and-seek with my brothers and cousins in the meadows and by the stream. It was wonderful. When my father was dying, he arranged everything — except what to do with the house. There were strange proposals from the family to turn Schuettgut into a guesthouse for the family or a similar facility. I couldn't bear to think about that. I finally took it over so it could be maintained as a family compound. I also knew how much my father loved Schuettgut.
When did you realize that Porsches are special automobiles?
You won't believe this. At first, I couldn't tolerate riding in a car. As a kid in the back seat, I would get sick when we drove on the winding mountain roads around Zell am See. That may be why I got behind the wheel quite early. When we moved back to Stuttgart, I had permission to pull our Porsche 356 in and out of the parking space in front of the garage on our property on Feuerbacher Weg. Even though I could barely see over the steering wheel, I really enjoyed my first efforts at driving.