Currently reading: Porsche's "design heritage" will help fend off Chinese EV start-ups
Storied marque's heritage earns it USP over less established brands; retro design cues a key differentiator

Porsche design boss Michael Mauer says heritage can be a key differentiator that gives European car makers the edge over new EV startups from China and elsewhere. 

The influx of Chinese cars into Europe has prompted much talk about the ongoing competitiveness of legacy local marques, but Mauer – also Volkswagen Group head of design – said companies like Porsche have a secret weapon in the form of design hallmarks established many years ago. 

“Europe’s car brands have built up a strong heritage, which is the foundation for the fact that people like these brands,” he told Autocar. 

“It’s a big advantage for us, but we have to be aware that the new competition is moving very fast. Design will make the difference in the future. If you have a start-up brand, you start at zero. Your first step is to build up credibility, and therefore designers will become even more important in the future.” 

Mauer is already planning the next several generations of new Porsche models, some of which, he hinted, will be revolutionary in their style, like the Renndienst van.

But there will also be room for more familiar fan favourites. He said: “You have all these old components which are disappearing, and so we have all this freedom. But the 911 will always be a 911, and must be recognisably so. As Porsche designers, we must not mess around with that, although with EV technology, maybe we can come closer to the original shape of the 911…” 

A striking mix of retro and cutting-edge design cues will be an important differentiator for future Porsche EVs, as Mauer predicts that raw straight-line speed will become harder to justify and exploit: “This kind of high speed means you must add so much to the car – and on public roads, this won’t play an important role any more. That could lead to lighter and smaller cars.”

Porsche's most shocking concept could make production

Porsche van concept side

In 2020, Porsche revealed the Renndienst as one of its most shocking concepts yet, and design boss Michael Mauer has said a production version is not entirely off the table. 

Inspired by VW Type 2 race team vans of the 1960s, the Renndienst is a roomy MPV with a central driving position and potentially blistering performance. It has never been tipped for production, but Mauer said electric powertrains give the design flexibility necessary for such outlandish models. 

“This is a great example of how EV technology is allowing us to change the proportions of cars,” he said. “To meet the expectations of performance, the Renndienst would have needed a big engine in the front or the back and then this silhouette would not have been possible.” 

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Mauer added: “I still wish that we had decided to do the car. So far, no decision is taken. But we always include the model when we’re making presentations to the board, and with the new EV technology, so many things are possible.

By Neil Briscoe

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