Porsche taking Tesla head on with new Taycan EV base model

2021 Porsche Taycan base (Credit: Porsche)

It was another big year for Porsche (VWAGY) here in U.S., despite a pandemic changing how the German automaker — and every other automaker for that matter — does business.

While a slowdown hurt performance in the spring, prospects turned around quickly for Porsche, as it ended up delivering 57,294 vehicles in the U.S., its second best year ever.

Deliveries rebounded in the back half of the year, in particular the 4th quarter, jumping 6.4% to a record 17,560 vehicles.

Kjell Gruner, Porsche’s new North America CEO and president, is pleased with the performance given the environment, and he’s also optimistic, especially with one sector that’s super hot on Wall Street — electrification.

“We are great believers in electrification,” Gruner said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “We started quite a while ago when we launched the 918 Spider [concept] — that’s 11 years ago now — with a plug-in hybrid. We added full hybrids in the Panamera and the Cayenne, and the plug-in hybrids there.”

But the big bet on EVs is with the all-electric Taycan sedan. And in its first full year on sale, Porsche delivered 4,414 units of the upper trim level Taycans (which start at over $100k for the Taycan 4S), outselling all versions of the Panamera sedan, which includes both gasoline and hybrid-powered models.

Gruner wasn’t surprised by the early positive reaction from Porsche’s client base. “We put everything into it,” he says. “[We] started with a clean sheet of paper, developed from scratch a new platform for it, because we believe if you do something, you better do it right.”

And the next iteration of that platform is the base Porsche Taycan, which will go on sale soon. The base Taycan will be powered by a single rear motor, putting out 402 horsepower and powered by a 79.2 kWh battery (although a 93.4kWh battery is on offer).

“[The base Taycan is] a bit like the 911, you have the engine in the rear, and rear wheel drive, so kind of a puristic derivative of the Taycan,” Gruner says. “I had the chance to drive it, so let’s see what the reaction is — but we are positive.“

The most compelling part of this package is the price: $79,900, and that’s before any federal or state tax credits. This is a big move for Porsche as it takes on new competitors in the space like sister brand Audi’s new e-tron GT, and the old stalwarts – notably the Tesla Model S, which also starts at $79,900 (and that’s not coincidental).

It’s a tall order to take on Elon Musk and Tesla (TSLA), a company with a big head start in EV production, and even bigger street cred in the EV space, but from Porsche’s point of view there’s no other option. Plus, competition is in the brand’s blood.

“We were born in motor sports, and there it’s all about competition,” Gruner says. “I mean, if you’re driving alone, what does it mean to win, right? So we’re very competitive as a brand.”

A new lower price and a compelling product doesn’t hurt either when it comes to winning in a very competitive space.

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