Porsche, the world's most profitable carmaker, has announced that it is to invest more than €1 billion in the development of a four-door coupe scheduled for launch in 2009. The model, named the Panamera, will be an entirely new product, not derived from the 911, Boxster or Cayenne. Production is expected to be in Leipzig, Germany, where certain Cayenne and Carrera cars are made.

By providing a viable family car, it is thought that the new model will expand Porsche's consumer base and lessen its dependency on traditional sports cars, sales of which tend to be cyclical. Furthermore, if the company's first attempt at producing a non-traditional sports vehicle, the Cayenne, is anything to go by, the future would appear bright already for the Panamera.

Current and prospective Porsche employees will also, no doubt, be cheered by the news that, in the course of the project, around 400 extra jobs will be created at the company's Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen plant, and some 600 new jobs will be created in Leipzig, should this site be chosen for production.

Production of the new model could also mean good news for system suppliers as, although Porsche intends to develop and build the vehicle using its own resources, the company has revealed that it intends to work with selected system suppliers more closely than it has done in the past.

Although, with the Porsche name behind it, the Panamera will inevitably benefit from the resultant brand equity of the premium German carmaker, it will face competition from the likes of Bentley, Maserati and Mercedes, all of which have high performance four door models of their own.

Rivals aside, however, the big question is whether or not Porsche can replicate the success of the Cayenne. Although much of the negative pre-launch speculation surrounding this model was proven wrong in the end, a second significant departure from its core offerings again constitutes something of a calculated risk.

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