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Proud Porsche Determined to Meet CAFE Mandate ‘On Our Own’

PCNA President and CEO Detlev von Platen is “pushing hard” to bring a diesel-powered Cayenne to the U.S. to help the auto maker comply with pending fuel-efficiency requirements.

LOS ANGELES – Porsche Cars North America Inc. could meet pending U.S. fuel-efficiency requirements more easily if it hid behind its mother’s skirt.

But the storied sports car maker has more pride than that.

“We will achieve this target, if we can, on our own,” PCNA President and CEO Detlev von Platen tells Ward’s on the sidelines of the L.A. Auto Show. “We do not want our customers in the future to hide behind a mass producer in order to be able to buy a Porsche.”

By virtue of its high-performance lineup, and less-forgiving corporate average fuel economy regulations, Porsche has one of the toughest hills to climb of any auto maker doing business in the U.S. Its fleet must reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 40 grams per mile by 2016, according to government estimates.

Competitors such as BMW of North America LLC and Tata Motors Ltd., owner of the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, also face shortfalls, but theirs are in the range of 5-6 gpm.

The problem arises because compliance levels are determined by vehicle footprint.

“Our cars are small and powerful,” von Platen says. “We will be compared with small cars. Not small and powerful cars.”

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But instead of leveraging the performance of controlling stakeholder Volkswagen AG’s highly fuel-efficient fleet, Porsche will find its own way. Some help arrived this month in the form of the Cayenne Hybrid cross/utility vehicle.

“It’s not the solution,” van Platen says. “It’s one solution.”

Also in the pipeline is the 911 GT3 R Hybrid.

“We are working flat out to make hybrid technology an integral part of the Porsche lineup,” adds Porsche AG Chairman Matthias Mueller, making his first appearance in the U.S. since ascending to the auto maker’s top job in September.

But advanced diesel technology could be the most significant contributor to a clean bill of health for PCNA. More than half the Cayennes sold in Europe are powered by clean-diesel engines.

“I’m pushing hard to get it (in the U.S.), because it’s a good concept for the Cayenne,” von Platen tells Ward’s.

PCNA uses the auto show to take the wraps off the ’12 Cayman R, which goes on sale in the U.S. next month.

Lighter than the Cayman S by 160 lbs. (72.6 kg), it features a retuned chassis with a rear locking differential for a more “precise” driving experience.

Equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission, Porsche claims 0-60 mph (97 km/h) performance in 4.7 seconds, which can be reduced to 4.4 seconds when the car is outfitted with the optional 7-speed PDK dual-clutch.

The car starts at $66,300, excluding destination charges.

Meanwhile, von Platen is satisfied with PCNA’s 2010 U.S. sales. Through October, deliveries tracked 27.4% ahead of like-2009, according to Ward’s.

And he is cautiously optimistic about the 2011 market.

“I’m very optimistic that the market will grow again in the United States, but I don’t know the speed,” von Platen says. “I expect this market to come back close to a level where we were in 2007. How much it will take, I don’t know.”

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