How protesters drowned out the 'Sound of Porsche'

Published: 11 December 2014

It's ironic that last night's launch of the 'pop-up' store celebrating 'The Sound of Porsche' in London's Westfield shopping centre nearly got drowned out by the sound of 600 demonstrators. They were protesting against the death of Eric Garner in New York, and not Porsche's decision to switch to quieter turbocharged engines with the next update of the 911, but there was still relief on the faces of the Porsche corporate types when the protestors were herded outside. 76 were later arrested.

Westfield isn't exactly Hoxton, but if you're going to take your car brand out of industrial estates and into the urban areas where your next customers congregate, you should expect a little urban unpredictability. And it's a smart thing to do. Tesla is already in Westfield. Dreadlocked designer and serial Porsche nut Magnus Walker was there and talked about the poster of the 911 Turbo he had on his wall as a kid, and how that started it all for him.

Modern kids require a bit more than a poster, and this 'pop-up' (I think we used to say 'temporary') store provides exactly that. There are booths that let you play short films and soundtracks telling the Porsche story, and there's a new 911 GTS in a darkened room, onto which is projected the reflections you'd see as you drove it around the 'Ring or over an Alpine pass: all with an accurate soundtrack, of course. If you’re anywhere near Westfield over Christmas, God help you, and go visit.

There was an impressive turn-out from Porsche's top brass. Matthias Kulla, the new head of design for sports cars, trained at London's Royal College of Art and said the greatest inspiration he got on his course was the cars he saw on the streets of this city. Global sales and marketing chief Bernhard Maier said the average age of visitors to the earlier New York pop-up was much younger than the average current customer. "For a lot of young people, 'Porsche' is still one of their first words," he told me. "We want to give them - and anyone who is interested in Porsche - easy access to the brand without feeling like they have to be interested in buying one, which maybe you do if you go into a traditional dealership. We don't want to sell them a car. We just want to tell them our story."

And Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, head of the Motorsport division, gave me a pretty clear assurance that at least some Porsches will continue to sound as good as they do now. "The GT3 will never be turbocharged," he said. "Not while I'm in charge."

Read CAR's story on the 911's turbocharged future here

By Ben Oliver

Contributing editor, watch connoisseur, purveyor of fine features