ZELL AM SEE, Austria — Porsche is gearing up to launch the Taycan full- electric sedan, which it promises will be the first of many battery-driven Porsches to come. Executives expect to largely transfer the bulk of the automaker's product range to electric drivetrains by the end of the next decade.
Porsche fine tunes EV production
Production boss Albrecht Reimold, 57, explained how this will unfold to Automotive News Europe Correspondent Christiaan Hetzner.
Q: How are preparations for the Taycan launch proceeding?
A: The buildings have all been constructed. The manufacturing equipment is in place, and we are in the process of transitioning to the pre-production "zero series," the final stage before assembly begins for real.
Will the Taycan start rolling off the production line in September?
That is correct. We are all working hard to ensure we hit our production date, and, currently, everything remains on schedule. By the end of the year, we will deliver the first models and, come early 2020, we expect our Zuffenhausen plant [near Stuttgart] will be running at full capacity to meet the brisk demand.
What still needs to be done?
It's just a matter of making fine corrections and optimizing the process to reduce the hours per vehicle, aspects such as in which sequence the screws should be fastened or how individual parts are picked out of storage bins and installed. That is our job every day in production management, constantly looking for new ways to improve the internal workflows on the assembly line.
Is a Taycan more challenging to build than a conventional car?
Constructing the load-bearing structures, joining the various parts together, painting the finished bodies — all that is the same. It's more of an evolutionary change with the only major difference to a conventional car being the high-voltage electrical system, for which employees have to be trained, often for several weeks. A battery is not like a fuel tank that can be handled at all times. As soon as the system is charged, certain safety protocols have to be followed.
How much has Porsche invested in the Zuffenhausen plant?
About €700 million [$793 million] was earmarked for the production of the Taycan. But we have also invested €300 million [$340 million] for the upcoming eighth-generation 911.
Are there any production synergies between the Taycan and the 911 and 718 model lines?
We have a combined body shop with specific, dedicated steps for each. The Taycan will have its own dedicated paint shop, but we took precautions that our two sports car models can be painted there as well. The opposite wouldn't work, however, because of the dimensions. Final assembly is also flexible enough that, in theory, we could build 911s on the Taycan line.
Now that Porsche is leading parent Volkswagen Group's Sport & Luxury brand group, can we expect to see Bentleys or Lamborghinis built at plants alongside your vehicles?
To a degree, we are already doing that in Bratislava, [Slovakia,] where the bodies for the Lamborghini Urus and Bentley Bentayga SUVs are built alongside the Porsche Cayenne.
Automakers that build EVs in China are no longer required to have a joint venture partner. Would it make sense for Porsche and Audi to build EVs there?
We listen very closely to what our Chinese customers prefer. They continue to want their Porsches made in Europe, and ideally in Zuffenhausen.
The VW brand will build its EVs in Europe entirely carbon-free. Is that something Porsche would like to emulate?
We are constantly thinking about ways to make our manufacturing process more environmentally friendly. We started with regenerative power and are now in the process of making our Taycan production entirely CO2 neutral. We are also testing a coating on our building facades that breaks down ambient nitrogen oxides in the air. Our vision is a zero-impact factory by 2025.