Retrospective

Porsche marks 70th anniversary of U.S. arrival by telling the story of how it all began

Porsche is celebrating its 70th anniversary of selling vehicles stateside.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

It's been 70 years since the first Porsche made its way to America. In the years that followed, Porsche has moved from an elitist sports car company to a more attainable luxury commodity. There's more than just sports cars now. There's acronym-ed models of many kinds - SUVs, PHEVs, and EVs.

The first Porsche got its road use certification in 1948. Germany, and the rest of the world, were still recovering from World War II, but enthusiasm in the evolution of the auto industry was running high.

Porsche 356 Max Hoffman

The Porsche 356 on display at Max Hoffman's showroom in New York City, which was designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Austrian expat Max Hoffman had arrived in the U.S. on June 21, 1941, and in 1947, he opened a showroom on Park Avenue in New York City. Hoffman Motor Car Company began selling established European vehicles and the success of the company allowed Hoffman to take a chance with some lesser-known marques.

In 1950, a meeting between Professor Ferdinand Porsche, the founder of Porsche, and Hoffman led the German automaker to decide that it was time to try out the U.S. market. The two had known each other for years, dating back to when Hoffman was a lawyer in Vienna. However, it wasn't that relationship that was the keystone to the deal. That was thanks to a journalist named Max Troesch.

Troesch had driven a Porsche 356 and proclaimed: "I am sure this car will make a name for itself." When he traveled to America, he showed Hoffman photos of the car and encouraged him to connect with Porsche.

In early conversations, Ferry Porsche, son of the founder, told Hoffman he would be happy to sell five cars a year in America, to which Hoffman famously replied: "If I can't sell five a week, I'm not interested." Eventually, they agreed on a U.S. import contract of 15 cars per year. The first two 1.1-liter 356 coupes were delivered to Hoffman in the fall of 1950.

Porsche Taycan 356

Porsche celebrates 70 years in the U.S. with a photo of the Taycan (left) and 356 (right) outside its Atlanta headquarters.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

For Hoffman, selling the Porsche 356 was going to be a challenge. Going by numbers alone, the Porsche was more expensive and had a smaller engine than the other models in his showroom. But, it had other things going for it.

The Porsche cars offered durability, track-bred agility, and daily driver qualities. Those were a unique combination in the American automotive landscape. But, Porsche didn't have the money to market it. It was up to Hoffman to get the public interested.

His marketing materials described the 356 as "One of the World's Most Exciting Cars" with "A new conception in handling, roadholding, suspension and safety never known before." The strategy gained traction, and by 1954, 11 cars per week were sold through Hoffman, equaling 30 percent of the annual Porsche production.

Ferry Porsche (left) and Hoffman on a rooftop in New York ca. 1952.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Another native Austrian, John von Neumann, welcomed Porsche into his showroom as well. Competition Motors, located at the corner of LaMirada and Vine in North Hollywood, California, sold the new Speedster model. The Speedster had a low $2,995 starting price making it an entry-level model. Neumann, who was well-connected in Hollywood, leaned on his celebrity customers, including actor James Dean, to build up the brand's influence on the West Coast.

Dean was driving his 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder he had named "Little Bastard" when he crashed it at the intersection of State Routes 41 and 46 after leaving Competition Motors on September 30, 1955 while en route to Salinas, California. The car was sold for parts and eventually wound up in the hands of famed car designer George Barris most known for designing the car used by the Munster family in "The Munsters".

James Dean gas station full-up 1955

James Dean was captured on-camera filling up his Spyder the day that he crashed it in 1955.

Photo courtesy of Don Ahearn

New reports indicate that portions of the vehicle, which disappeared in 1960 while being transported from Miami, Florida to Los Angeles, may have been found. Three permanently traceable components of a 550 Spyder Dean owned have been located in Massachusetts. These include the chassis, engine, and gearbox/transaxle. This transaxle is stamped with the correct factory serial number #10046.

By 1955, sales in the U.S. were so strong that the company decided to establish an independent distribution network. Sales continued to grow and by 1965, Porsche was selling 74.6 percent of the vehicles it produced in the U.S.

Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche were all under the same umbrella by 1969. On September 1, 1984, Porsche Cars North America was established in Reno, NV.

The 1990s were a time of setbacks for the company but with the successful introduction of the Boxster into the lineup, Porsche got back on track. In 1998, the company moved its headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia and expanded its line up in 2003 to include the Cayenne.

2018 Porsche Cayenne

Porsche introduced the Cayenne to the U.S. market in 2003.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The auto industry as a whole suffered in the wake of the global recession in 2010. The company once again rebounded by introducing the Panamera and Macan in order to reach a more diverse audience.

Porsche's new headquarters facility in Atlanta opened in 2015. The Porsche Experience Center (PEC) features a driver development track, fine dining restaurant, Heritage Gallery and more. In November 2016, a second Porsche Experience Center opened in Los Angeles, making America the first market with two PECs. Combined, the two PECs represent an investment of $160M – the largest Porsche has ever undertaken outside of Germany to date - and have welcomed more than 450,000 visitors so far.

Growing the brand

Porsche Taycan 356 Atlanta

The Porsche Taycan electric sedan is a big part of the future of the company - and sales are soaring.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

Porsche hasn't let off the throttle. In recent years they've launched a new digital space and established and fine-tuned the Porsche Drive subscription service. Sales continue to hit new highs and bounce back following the COVID-19 shutdown.


Atlanta, Georgia.

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What was your best car-related experience this year?

Chris Teague

This year has been a lot of things, but it hasn't been boring. Even if we focus only on the car world, there's plenty to talk about, from microchip-related new vehicle shortages to the wave of new electric vehicles hitting the market. That leaves us with a question for all of you: What was the best or most memorable car moment for you in 2021? I'll get the conversation started.

Porsche Cayenne GTS My SoCal Cayenne śaw snow for the first time in its nearly 200k-mile life last week.Chris Teague

I'd spent a good portion of 2021 wanting a new-old car to drive when I wasn't testing a new vehicle. That's harder than you'd think for someone who thinks, talks, and writes about cars all day, because there are so many interesting, risky, and downright funky options out there in every price range. The added headache for me was that I'd chosen to shop for a "fun" car in one of the most volatile car markets ever seen. Even the extremely high-mileage "untouchable" European cars I wanted to buy were commanding ridiculous prices.

After a solid few months of waffling between various rattletrap Mercedes-AMG, BMW M, and Audi S/RS cars, I landed on an option that had escaped me before: The Porsche Cayenne. First-generation Cayennes are a real bargain now, but the 955/957 (Porsche's internal code for the SUVs) can experience major problems that occur with or without regular maintenance and care. I was determined to buy one, and wasn't overly concerned about mileage, as long as I could count the number of owners on one hand. There was a beautiful 2009 Cayenne GTS with 90,000 miles but nine owners, a gorgeous 2004 Cayenne Turbo with a concerning engine tick, and many more just like them. Finally, I decided to risky-click a 196,000-mile Cayenne GTS in Southern California. It had one owner and one dealer-owner for a month or two prior to sale, its condition looked decent in photos, and I was able to negotiate a reasonable enough price that shipping it from San Diego to Maine wasn't a huge problem.

Porsche Cayenne GTS The pics look great, but hands-on tells another story.Chris Teague

I had two traveling Euro mechanics check the car out, and both confirmed that it was well-worn but mechanically sound, so I jumped. Ten days later, on a snowy, icy, dark Maine afternoon, the Cayenne arrived. Cosmetically, there were a few things the dealer and mechanics failed to mention, but overall, it looked good. The SUV passed Maine safety and emissions testing without problem, got a new set of Michelins, and I was on my way.

Porsche Cayenne GTS I'm in danger, but thankfully this should be a reasonable fix.Chris Teague

A few days of driving revealed what I was really in for. A check engine light revealed a camshaft position sensor error and the Cayenne displayed a nasty vibration at idle. A new sensor and motor mounts, and I'm on my way. I'll update you as more things break or miraculously work, but I want to hear your memories from 2021.

Email me at chris@automotivemap.com, and I will compile the best and most interesting stories for a story on New Year's Day. May you all have a wonderful 2022.

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Insurance company Hagerty compiled a list of cars it thinks will climb in value and price.

Hagerty

Vehicle prices have grown across the board this year, but collector car prices have been on the move for years. The world of online car auctions and car shows such as Radwood have driven attention to obscure and otherwise unknown cars, pushing their prices. Insurance and overall automotive lifestyle company Hagerty is stepping in to help. It complied a list of vehicles that it believes are currently a good value and have potential to climb. The Hagerty Bull Market List covers ten vehicles of all types.

Hagerty’s list is expansive, covering several vehicle types, prices, and time periods. The list features vehicles built between 1963 and 2012, and is designed to nudge people into buying cars before they become unattainable. This is especially important now, as online auction sites have moved the markets for some previously obscure cars well past the point of reason.

The Bull Market List isn’t intended to give you an inside track on car values so that you can flip them for quick profit. Instead, the list should give you the push you need if you’re already on the fence about buying a car to keep and drive a cool vehicle. Hagerty wants people to buy the cars and have the ability to pass them on to other enthusiasts without charging exorbitant prices.

The Bull Market List includes (with excellent condition pricing):

  • 1965-1970 Cadillac DeVille ($28,800)
  • 1969-1974 Ferrari 246 Dino ($365,800)
  • 1983-1997 Land Rover Defender ($61,400)
  • 1979-1985 Mazda RX-7 ($17,600)
  • 1962-1967 Mercedes-Benz 230SL ($80,500)
  • 1963-1967 Pontiac GTO ($100,200)
  • 1992-1995 Porsche 968 ($38,000)
  • 1985-1995 Suzuki Samurai ($10,200)
  • 2008-2012 Tesla Roadster Sport ($97,000)
  • 1975-1993 Volvo 245 ($15,800)

If you’re considering one of the vehicles on the list and have the means, it’s a good idea to act in the near future. Vehicle prices are rising due to supply chain shortages to the point that even older cars are climbing. That, plus the effects of online car auctions, have made it hard to find a good value car.

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