The Detroiter who helped revive Porsche’s fortunes
Schwab was a former accountant and later an executive with the German supplier and trailer manufacturer Fruehauf. He was recruited to Porsche in 1985 to serve in an administrative and planning role.
When he was handed the top job at Porsche in 1992, after the trough of the U.S. recession, the brand racked up sales of just 4,115. In 2003, the year Schwab retired, Porsche sold 28,417 vehicles.
In 2019, the brand’s U.S. deliveries tallied 61,568 behind five nameplates: the famed 911, the Boxster, the Panamera and two SUVs — the Cayenne and Macan. Porsche added another nameplate this year — the all-electric Taycan.
“We’ve gone from disaster to pretty good success,” Schwab told Autoweek magazine in 2003. “That’s going to be the major legacy — that the face of Porsche has changed in North America.”
Schwab also created by Porsche Financial Services and relocated the company’s U.S. headquarters from Reno, Nev. — where it had been focused on its biggest U.S. market, California — to Atlanta.
Toward the end of his stint, Porsche Schwab ushered into the utility vehicle segment with the launch of the Cayenne.
It was a controversial move for the purveyor of sexy two-door sports cars.
But it proved to be prescient. The Cayenne is today Porsche’s second-bestselling vehicle.
“It is always easier to not do something,” Schwab said during a Wharton marketing club presentation in 2002.
“But the challenge in business is to do something that will make you stronger.”
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