Porsche North America CEO talks future and Atlanta

The new CEO of Porsche Cars North America on Thursday said he sees both autonomous and electric-powered cars becoming “mainstream” in the years ahead, and also discussed the company’s success at its new Atlanta headquarters and test track at a special briefing for journalists.

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070716 ATLANTA: Porsche Cars North America CEO Klaus Zellmer (far left) greets guests at the Porsche North America headquarters on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

For a brand with a devoted following of driving enthusiasts, Porsche is attempting to develop autonomous and electric-powered autos that live up to the company’s sporting ethos, while the electric drive-train must deliver extended range with quick charges, said Klaus Zellmer, who became the head of Porsche in North America nine months ago.

Porsche has promised to deliver by the end of the decade a Tesla-fighting electric car that will reach 60 miles per hour in under 3.5 seconds, drive more than 300 miles on a single charge and re-charge its batteries to 80 percent power in less than 15 minutes.

“No doubt it will happen,” Zellmer said of electrics overtaking the industry. That’s it, that’s going to come. We will have to live up to our Porsche DNA at the right price.”

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070716 ATLANTA: Porsche cars make their way around the track as guests take them on a spin at the Porsche North America headquarters on Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton /ccompton@ajc.com

Zellmer said Porsche is investing in self-driving technology, but the brand’s unique clientele will want both a car that drives itself when the owner wants it while still being a driver’s Porsche.

Zellmer also touted the company’s new Atlanta headquarters, which has drawn 30,000 visitors in its first year. Guests include drivers at its Porsche Experience Center and test track, customers picking up new vehicles and business meetings. Porsche is also developing a second U.S. track outside Los Angeles that will be about twice the size of the one here near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. (Porsche has additional land it could use for expansion in Atlanta.)

Thursday’s event included opportunities for journalists to drive models around the track.

Taking questions from the audience, Zellmer said Porsche is working with regulators to put a diesel emissions scandal behind the company. Last month, Volkswagen settled cases with federal and state regulators totaling more than $15 billion over vehicles with 2.0-liter diesel engines rigged to cheat emissions tests.

Some 85,000 VW, Porsche and Audi vehicles with 3.0-liter diesel engines were also caught up in the scandal.

Zellmer said Porsche is working on plans to repair customers’ diesel models to bring them back into environmental compliance and to resume sales of unsold diesel vehicles.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will bring you more highlights of the conversation with Zellmer in an upcoming edition of the Sunday Business section.  

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