The tribe is sad to report that former President and CEO of Porsche AG, Peter W. Schutz, has died at the age of 87. The significance of Schutz’s time at the top cannot be understated – not only is he credited with reversing Porsche’s fortunes at a time of serious commercial crisis, but he was also the man who famously overturned the decision to stop building the 911.
When Schutz took the reins in January of 1981, Porsche was in the thick of it, having recorded its first ever loss the previous year. Although born in Germany, Schutz was raised in America and had worked for many years in engineering and sales for American industry, giving him what the board regarded as an invaluable grasp of that vital US market.
But he was also a man of conviction, and one blessed with a genuine understanding and passion for the brand. When he was taken on he immediately reversed the move to cease production of the 911. This was a decision that, albeit logical with the benefit of hindsight, was bold as brass at a time when the 911 was 18-years-old and regarded as an outmoded concept by many in sports car circles.
Schutz can also be credited with establishing the 911 Cabriolet in the US, before going on to expand the burgeoning transaxle range with the introduction of the 944 Turbo, 944 S and 944 S2 models alongside their elegant and much-admired cabriolet variants.
He was comparably hands-on in the arena of motorsport, overseeing a period of unprecedented dominance for Porsche. In 1982 it won almost all classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and took the top five overall places in the race. But the trophy cabinet only tells half the story. At this time the 959 also began development, a car that, although denied a chance to shine on track, underlined Porsche’s extraordinary technological foresight and ability in a period of rapid advancement.
And for five financial years in a row, sales and profits grew exponentially, setting one company record after another. It was a golden period for Porsche, and one that cemented its status as a top tier global player in the modern era of motoring and motorsport.
Schutz left the company in 1987, retiring to Naples, Florida the following year where he became a motivational speaker and remained popular in the Sunshine State’s tight-knit Porsche circles. He is survived by his wife, daughter and two sons. And by a certain sports car without which the world would be a poorer place.