Porsche has built its one millionth Cayenne, 18 years after its first SUV rolled off the production line.
It proved controversial at launch, as Porsche enthusiasts used to the firm building sports cars felt it diluted the brand.
But by Porsche’s own admission, by the early 1990s it was heading for ‘an economic low point’. In 1991, it sold 23,000 cars, about half what it sold five years previously, and it needed to avert its trajectory.
Its fortunes turned around after the Boxster was revealed in 1993, pushing sales back up to their previous levels within three years.
Porsche didn’t want to settle for that, though, and by the end of the 90s it was imagining what the car of the 21st Century would be. Given the boom in SUV sales we see today it might seem obvious, but back then, building an SUV was quite a bold statement.
Development of the Cayenne began at a rented facility in a small town in Germany, halfway between the company’s development centre and main factory in Zuffenhausen. The facility was shared with Volkswagen to make its Touareg SUV alongside the Cayenne.
Porsche announced its SUV in 1998 and revealed it in production form at the Paris motor show in 2002.
Hans-Jürgen Wöhler, vice president of the SUV product line until recently, said: “It was a bold decision to build an SUV at the end of the 1990s, but this decision meant that Porsche was able to surpass all expectations just a short time later.
“The brand generates an incredible level of fascination. Back then, I was planning on staying with Porsche for about three years. And I never actually left.
“[Porsche founder] Ferry Porsche once said that if we would build an off-road vehicle in line with our quality concepts, it would certainly sell.”
The Cayenne was a huge success and drove big profits for the brand, which is now better known as a luxury car manufacturer than purely for its sportier models. Its SUV range has since doubled to include the smaller Macan.
There have been three generations of Cayenne, with the latest model priced from £59,150. It’s available with both SUV and ‘coupe’ body styles, as well as a plug-in hybrid powertrain.