Why Porsche Shouldn’t Listen to its Customers

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.”


  1. Ryan,

    Have you driven any new 911s recently? Both the 996 and the 997 are crammed full of creature comforts and electronic bells and whistles. Both models are still all Porsche, you just have to turn a few things off.

    I’m 6′ 3″ tall and about 260 lbs. I don’t find my ’73 911 or ’97 993 small or cramped. The new 997s are downright roomy!!!

    911s haven’t really been that tail happy for years (unless of course your talking about a GT3 or GT2) 🙂 With PSM and PASM they practically drive themselves. Wait, maybe I just agreed with you…

    • I know, I know…some of those things were exaggerated a bit intentionally to attempt to align with what traditionally have been Porsche drivers complaints. The point is, the idiosyncrasies are what make the Porsche experience what it is. Love em or hate em, and we have both sides, they’re what make driving a Porsche a unique and rewarding experience.

  2. What the general public generally complains about has always been to me what actually gives something character! The heck wiith the herd ! 🙂

  3. I love the idea of keeping the 911 a true sports car for the driving experience on winding country roads. If you are commuting and sittiing in traffic I think that is where you want to feel like you are sitting in your living room on your sofa. I guess this is where the luxury sedan comes into play.

  4. Ryan,

    You don’t happen to have a flag (Puerto Rican maybe?) hanging from the 911’s rearview mirror do you? I saw a black 911 Cabriolet driving around in Beaverton a week or two ago with the top down on a sunny day with a small flag danging from the rearview, flapping in the breeze.

    • Sorry, no Puerto Rican flag hanging from the mirror in the Giveaway Porsche. I did have the top down several times the last few sunny days we’ve had. Getting things all warmed up for the winner.

  5. Ryan only flies the Canadian flag in the giveaway Porsche.

  6. Looks like we are going to have some warm days coming up next week. Definitely top down weather. There will be lots of convertibles out and that is fun to see.

  7. Finally! A weekend in the 70’s!! And it’s supposed to break 80 on Monday!!!