With a new greenfield factory and new levels of responsibility for the product team, the 500 million euro Cayenne program was a huge challenge. Nothing in Porsche’s history compares with the Cayenne development programme in terms of complexity, Klaus-Gerhard Wolpert, who directed the process, told Automotive News Europe in an interview.

“The Boxster is a sports car in the sports car segment,” said Wolpert. “The Cayenne is completely new.”

Porsche led the product development of the platform for both the Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg sport-utility, which shares its mechanicals with the Cayenne, said Wolpert.

The combined programme was a huge one for the small car maker. Not counting VW group spending, Porsche’s investment for the new model totalled 500 million euros.

“The biggest surprise for me was the complexity of the whole thing,” said Wolpert, who had been involved in discussion and planning for the new model range in the late 1990s. “I really underestimated the time needed to bring the team together.”

But Wolpert told ANE that the scale of the challenge actually helped the development team.

“We really had an ideal starting point,” he said. “Everything was new and could be shaped from nothing,” including the greenfield factory.

Work on the Cayenne started in 1998 with the decision to develop the model as an addition to the lineup of the Boxster and venerable 911 sports cars.

Porsche froze the Cayenne’s exterior design in August 1999 and the interior shortly afterwards.

Because Porsche was entering the sport-utility segment, the team did a lot of benchmarking and conducted clinics in Asia, the USA and both northern and southern European markets, said Wolpert.

Porsche also created a new organisation for the Cayenne. According to Automotive News Europe, the product team was given a high degree of responsibility for the new vehicle. Wolpert reports directly to Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking, and the team managed the complete business case for the model, over its complete lifecycle, including its profitability, financing and production.

The Cayenne has a level of vertical integration of only 10%, compared with 20% for the company’s sports cars.

Suppliers were involved in the development process directly after the concept phase. Many deliver large modules used on the vehicle. To manage the process, Porsche put a large emphasis on training, Wolpert told ANE.

“It was important that we welded the group together so that they worked as a team,” he said.

The core team was located in a separate building in the development centre.

Putting the entire team — including logistics and purchasing specialists — in the same location tightened the decision-making process, Wolpert said.

The team was spread out on just three floors. Prototypes and the workshop were on the ground floor, the project management and logistics team on the first floor, and the development team and partners, purchasing and production were on the second floor.

“The pathways were short,” said Wolpert. “You could simply say, ‘Come here, there is a problem.’ ”

Wolpert told Automotive News Europe he was surprised how well the team did on the design and “how close to a sports car” it could make the Cayenne.