You’ve heard about Porsches and their legendary exclusive designs and engineering. But is it true these German hyper luxury cars are hand-built?
Many high-performance cars carry insane price tags primarily because of the level of craftsmanship that goes into their production.
But considering the level of automation used in Porsches, do they feature any handcrafting?
In this article, we show you the facts about the Porsche production process and the level of handcrafting that goes into its vehicles.
Are Porsches hand-built?
Earlier models up to the 1980s were heavily hand-built. From the 1980s, the company has automated production because of several reasons, particularly its large production volume.
Unlike Ferrari and other luxury cars that have a low production volume, Porsche has a heavy order list, which makes hand-building futile.
The company’s Zuffenhausen production plant is one of the most AI-reliant industrial facilities in the world. If you want hand-built Porsches, you can still get them, but they carry a hefty price.
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Are New Porsches Being Hand Built?
Most of the production process of new Porsches are done by robots. However, some things still require a manual assembly, but the company continues to automate most of its processes to enhance performance and reduce completion time. Porsche adopted full-scale robotic production from the time of the 964.
Apart from the 356s which featured heavy hand assembling, most of the later models relied on machines.
The plants where the Panamera, Macan, Cayenne, late model Carreras, and Boxsters are made feature fully-fledged robotics production lines.
Assembling the suspension, engine, interior, and even some welding is done by hand. But any task which machines can do better is left to the robots. That way, the company cuts production time, improves quality, and reduces the cost of production.
The large volume of production makes it unrealistic for Porsche to continue to use humans for many of the things that factories used to do manually.
To meet production targets, most of its cars are now produced by high-tech robots. However, the plant where the production takes place is a huge determinant of the level of hand-building that goes into Porsche cars.
The Stuttgart plant is the most automated of Porsche facilities, and most of the production processes are almost completely automated, except for a few finishing touches.
Other plants in Slovakia and Leipzig do not enjoy such automation and may feature more manual production processes. This does not mean the vehicles are hand-built.
Humans only assemble machine-built parts in most cases and leave precision and repetitive tasks to the robots.
You may also like to read our article Are Porsches Comfortable for Daily Use?
What About Older Porsche Models?
Older Porsche cars were heavily hand-built.
The story began in Gmund, Austria, where Porsche started the production of the 356.
Based on Volkswagen mechanicals, most of the iconic 356 cars were actually built by hand 100%, although they experienced extensive problems largely because of the imperfections of the human hand.
901 and 911 Models
When production moved to Stuttgart, Porsche began the production of the 901.
This beautiful car also featured extensive manual processes in its production. Everything from the welding, coupling the chassis to the frame, installing the glassworks, interiors, and engines were done by hand. Not long afterward, opposition from Peugeot forced Porsche to change the 901 to 911.
After many iterations, the 911 proved to be the most successful Porsche ever.
It won the company the American market thanks to redesigned energy-absorbing bumpers and a classic curving silhouette.
Demand for the 911s continued to soar until the 1980s. The 914, 924, and 928 were also largely hand-built, but these also featured machine welding. However, the assembling was done by hand, leaving many defects that didn’t become apparent at the factory.
By the time Porsche started producing the 963 and 964, machines had taken over most of the manual tasks because of quality control issues, larger production volume, and the need to satisfy the varied taste of affluent customers.
When Porsche entered the mainstream market, it became clear many customers are not buying for the insane speed and mind-blowing performance of the supercar.
They attached Porsche with glamor and class because of its beautiful design. It proved difficult to achieve those classic Porsche curves with human hands.
Humans couldn’t get the cars off the production line fast enough, and the order list was getting longer by the day.
Most Recent Methods
The solution was more automation. And that was the beginning of Porsche’s reliance on robots for most of its automotive production processes.
A visit to the Stuttgart plant will reveal one of the most sophisticated factories in the world. In the last decade, Porsche has spent over $500 million to retool the Leipzig plant to make its production more automated.
The company did this to cut production time and make it easier to produce different models on the same lines.
But its decision to invest in automation was also motivated by the need to meet the exacting demands of its new customers, especially buyers of the exceptionally popular Panamera.
Are Porsche Engines Hand Built?
The early Porsche engines were 100% hand-built.
At first, Porsche relied on VW engines before it moved its operations from Gmund to Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart.
At the new facility, humans built the engines by hand. In fact, the company hand-built every engine of the 356s. A single employee completes the assembly by hand with no automated processes or electronic tools-just spanners and wrenches and other hand tools.
In the early 1960s, increasing volume forced the company to introduce new production processes to hasten engine assembly and relieve the pressure on overworked employees. By 1993, it built engines on production lines with some processes mechanized.
By 2000, the production volume was so high and required several tests. Porsche introduced electronic assembly, and robots took over the engine production process from humans.
Nowadays, Porsche engines result from a 100% automated process. Humans are able to perform tests and look out for defects through a carefully calibrated quality control protocol to ensure every engine meets technical and performance standards.
Which Parts of Porsches Are Hand Assembled?
Porsche assembles the suspension, interior, instrument clusters, and fitting by hand.
Things like the leatherwork, soft-top, some parts of the painting, and other tasks that require human finesse are still performed by hand.
Where Are Porsches Made Today?
Porsche is made in Germany.
Everything from manufacturing to the testing of the finished products takes place at the company’s facilities all over Germany.
Here is the location of some of the car manufacturer’s facilities:
This district of Stuttgart, Germany, is where Porsche really made its name. It is the location of the carmaker’s headquarters and main factory. Porsche began its first production model at this facility. It continues to make all its sports cars and engines at the Zuffenhausen plant.
What makes this facility different from every other auto manufacturing plant is that it builds standard production models and racing models on the same production line.
You will see Macans, Carreras, and Boxsters on the same line, and the robots don’t make mistakes.
The Zuffenhausen factory is also one of the most advanced automobile production facilities in the world with industry-leading robotics and artificial intelligence controls.
The other big Porsche production facility is located in Leipzig, Sachsen, Germany. The plant received a boost in the last decade to increase its capability to mass produce the Panamera and Macan, which were extremely popular among buyers.
Some parts of the SUV vehicles are assembled in Slovakia at a VW Tuareg facility, but most of the work is done at the Leipzig plant.
Leipzig also hosts the company’s 3.7 km, FIA-certified racetrack, and off-road track. Here, you can test drive Porsche vehicles with all the fury and adrenaline you’ve got.
This is the location of most Porsche subsidiaries.
The facility hosts:
- Porsche Financial Services,
- Porsche Consulting,
- Porsche Deutschland,
- Porsche Engineering Group,
- and other vital organs of the company.
Porsche’s International After-Sales department is located in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
Weissach, Germany, has been the location of the Porsche Research and Development Center since 1971.
It houses the company’s state-of-the-art wind tunnel, its class-leading electronics integration center, and an innovative manufacturer design studio that cooks up all those cool concept cars.
This is the location of the Porsche parts warehouse.
The facility holds a minimum of 85,000 different Porsche parts at any given time.
It contributes immensely to the fast-paced just-in-time logistics that allows Porsche to deliver thousands of luxury performance cars to customers all over the world.
This is one reason the company can sell its products at a far lower price compared to brands like Ferrari, which have sub 50k annual outputs.
What Car Brands Are Being Built By Hand Today?
A lot of cars feature some elements of hand building. Even regular cars made for the general population get some hand pampering, although in limited amounts.
The companies that emphasize building their cars by hand as a marketing strategy are luxury brands:
- Alfa Romeo
- Rolls Royce
However, most of these luxury brands only use manual processes where robots cannot create better results or space, and other constraints make their use inefficient.
For example, carbon fiber is notorious for being painstakingly difficult to work with. Workers have to arrange carbon fiber by hand, and this can take a long time and effort.
It’s one reason cars that use black plastic are so expensive. Most handcrafting goes into finishing the interior and some aspects of painting, which delivers better results by hand.