Porsche and A Time of Transition
When you think about Porsche, you probably envision the same thing that I do, which is something like a 911 or a Macan.
What you probably don’t think about—and I surely don’t—are software for traffic planning and management and transport logistics.
Penske, perhaps. But Porsche?
Still Porsche Automobil Holding SE has invested more than 300-million euro in PTV Planung Transport Verkehr AG (PTV Group) of Karlsruhe, Germany, a company that specializes in software that does those things.
Yes, PTV Group software is used to planning the routes and loads and suchlike of trucks that transport goods.
Which is essential in the automotive supply chain, but it is certainly not as sexy as a sports car.
Here’s a telling line in the announcement of the acquisition, a line that shows that there is a huge transformation underway in the auto industry, a transformation that goes well beyond investments in things like sensor companies and ride-hailing companies: “Porsche SE . . .plans to acquire additional strategic investments along the automotive value chain. This comprises the entire spectrum of basic technologies from supporting the development and production process through to vehicle- and mobility-related services.”
That’s right: Porsche is interested in everything from manufacturing to delivery, and, yes, the mobility space, as well.
One of the things that tends to be overlooked in the movement toward autonomy and mobility is that there are a lot of basic things that must be executed superbly, and it’s not all predicated on whether the automated vehicle will make a smooth lane change.
Rather, it is about developing and producing and providing the components, systems and vehicles that lead to such capabilities.
Again, not the stuff of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but the stuff of making that real, tangible, actual.
It is not all about artificial intelligence and deep learning software. Some of it is about logistics and planning.
One of the interesting aspects of what Porsche is doing is that it is looking holistically at its contribution to transportation and it sees that it is important even on the manufacturing floor. And its importance is underscored by the fact that it is making significant investments in having the wherewithal to execute and deliver. While this is probably the sort of thing that many companies buy as a software package, here is Porsche buying an entire company. (Or companies, going forward.)
In effect what we’re seeing is a new form of vertical integration in the industry, but one that’s becoming increasingly predicated on software, not hardware, but software that facilitates the deployment and delivery of hardware assets.
Once the playground of exotic car makers, the definition of a niche vehicle has expanded to include image vehicles for mainstream OEMs, and specialist models produced on high-volume platforms.
Ford has made an accomplishment that will never be bested, never even be tied.
Dan Nicholson is vice president of General Motors Global Propulsion Systems, the organization that had been “GM Powertrain” for 24 years.