5 facts about Porsche, the luxury carmaker with a storied history

This week’s Porsche IPO could be Europe’s biggest IPO in more than a decade. (AFP image)

ZURICH: The German luxury car manufacturer Porsche AG is aiming for a blockbuster initial public offering this week on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Here are five facts about the automotive giant.

1. Dial 911

Porsche caused a stir at the 1963 Frankfurt International Motor Show when it introduced a new six-cylinder engine car designed to succeed its 356 model.

The manufacturer originally wanted to call it the 901 – but Peugeot had already claimed all three-digit numbers with a zero in the middle, prompting Porsche to settle for the 911.

The number is now strongly linked to the brand. To call the company, 911 is on every phone number after the area code. The company’s capital is 911 million shares and its shares trade under the code P911.

2. Electric car pioneer

Volkswagen, the parent company of Porsche, has launched a high-profile campaign to dispose of internal combustion engines. In fact, it produced its first electric vehicles over a century ago.

In the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen in southern Germany, a kind of old mail coach is on display, which is referred to as the first Porsche in history.

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Built in 1898 by company founder Ferdinand Porsche, the “Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton” drove with an electric drive. Two years later, Porsche presented a new model, the “Lohner-Porsche”, a petrol-electric hybrid.

3. Big on screen

Porsches have made regular screen appearances over the years. One of the most famous examples is the 1971 film “Le Mans” starring Steve McQueen as Michael Delaney, an American driving a Porsche 917 against a German rival in a Ferrari in the famous 24 Hours of France.

In the 1995 cop film Bad Boys, Will Smith’s character drives a 911 Turbo while he and a co-worker investigate the theft of a massive shipment of heroin from a police vault.

In the 1983 teen comedy Risky Business, Tom Cruise’s character drove (and sank) a Porsche 928. (Image by Warner Bros.)

One of Hollywood star Tom Cruise’s earliest hits, the 1983 teen comedy Risky Business, features a Porsche 928. Cruise’s character is forbidden from driving the car while his parents are away – but he does just that, and it ends up sinking in a lake.

And in Scarface, Al Pacino – who plays a Cuban immigrant who becomes a powerful drug lord in Miami – also drives a Porsche 928.

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4. Meanwhile in motorsport

Porsche is one of the largest racing car manufacturers in the world. After moderate success with early models in endurance racing in the 1950s and 1960s, the 917 led the manufacturer to a coveted first victory in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans – an event in which it has triumphed on and off ever since.

The legendary 911 has done particularly well in rallies, including the Monte Carlo Rally.

The manufacturer has also raced in Formula 1. They had a team from 1957 to 1962, although they only raced in two full seasons (1961–62), their only win being that of Dan Gurney at the 1962 French Grand Prix.

They returned to the racetrack in 1983, providing engines for the McLaren team and enjoying great success: McLaren won back-to-back Constructors’ Championships in 1984 and 1985.

However, negotiations with Red Bull over a partnership that would have allowed them to return to F1 fell through earlier this month.

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5. Porsche and Pitch

The Porsche-Piech family is the main shareholder of the Volkswagen Group and has been rooted in the German automotive industry for decades.

Austrian-born engineer Ferdinand Porsche was the founder of the luxury car brand that bears his name. He also created the Volkswagen Beetle and designed the legendary Mercedes-Benz SSK open sports car.

During World War II, he contributed to the German war effort by helping to manufacture weapon systems and was a member of the Nazi Party. He died in 1951.

Ferdinand Piech was the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche. From 1993 to 2002 he was CEO of VW and helped transform the group into a global auto giant in the face of stiff competition, particularly from rivals in Asia.

He reorganized the company and cleaned up its books, cost tens of thousands of jobs and was a notoriously tough manager, dubbed “the Kaiser” and “the Patriarch” by the German media.

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