I ran across an interesting article on Scobleizer.com the other day. Robert Scoble was talking about Facebook and how users were in an uproar because Mark Zuckerberg was telling people that he wasn’t going to listen to customers. (Really the Facebook users are in an uproar because of design changes to Facebook.) He starts the post out with an interesting quote though:
My former boss, Jim Fawcette, used to say that if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they’d tell you things like “smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc.” He’d then say “well, they just designed a Volvo.” [Source: Scobleizer.com]
That got me to thinking about the Porsche experience, what I love about the cars, etc. AND how much Porsche has/hasn’t let it’s customer’s wishes impact design of new models. I know a 4 door sports car has long been a dream of the Porsche family, but I have to believe Porsche is bending at least slightly towards what it thinks customers will buy up more readily as it looks to release the Panamera.
Maybe that’s fundamentally different though. Porsche deciding what customers will buy rather than customers telling Porsche what they want. In the end, don’t we kind of end up with the same thing? A Porschefied Volvo? Take another look at the Panamera. Hasn’t Porsche in essence given us what Scoble’s boss said we’d create?
When I step back and think about how I’d change the 911 for instance, I have to admit I’d probably creature comfort the crap out of it. In fact, a friend stopped by last weekend and through the course of conversation, he mentioned he’d rather drive a sedan than a sports car. Purely because of comfort. I’m not that far behind him.
Yet at the same time, when I think about Porsche and the 911 specifically, the things I love about the cars are many of the things that maintain the feeling of connection to the car’s racing roots. It’s small (impractical and cramped), quick and agile (too much road noise and feel), tail happy (not well balanced), etc. I have thought on more than one occasion as I’m driving down the road in the Giveaway 911 how cool it is to be driving what is essentially a race car on the open road. It’s like riding a Thoroughbred down a long open stretch on the back 40.
All of those discomforts and inconveniences that would go away by driving a Volvo instead are what make the experience such a unique and pleasurable one.
Maybe the maxim that’s floated around for a long time is true: “a camel is a horse designed by committee”. The Panamera and Cayenne are our Porschecamels.
In the end, as my dad has often said, “That and two bits will get you a cup of coffee.”