The 1990s were a great time, in retrospect, for the Porsche 911. Call it a golden age where modern driving tech met Porsche's traditional air-cooled engines. But it was a difficult time for Porsche financially, which had the brand looking for alternative ways to make money — like building a sedan for Mercedes-Benz. One of those ways was very nearly building a minivan.
Porsche narrowed it down to two alternatives for a more family-friendly third car, to join the 911 and the upcoming Boxster: a "luxury people-carrier/minivan" and a "fast, premium SUV." Porsche's American market vetoed the minivan believing that the SUV would perform better with its luxury buyers.
"At the time in America, minivans were especially popular among families with many children and low incomes," Anton Hunger, the head of communications for former Chairman of the Executive Board Wendelin Wiedeking, said. "But large SUVs were doing well across all income levels even back then."
Porsche initially sought a partnership with Mercedes that would have seen Porsche build a sportier version of the M-Class. But Porsche eventually worked with Volkswagen on what became the Porsche Cayenne — now celebrating its 20th anniversary — and the VW Touareg.
Opting for an SUV over a minivan proved an excellent decision for Porsche. The Cayenne and later the Macan became Porsche's best-selling vehicles. Selling profitable SUVs put Porsche on better financial footing and saved the enthusiast cars. And over decades, the SUVs have become properly sporty Porsches in their own right. Minivans have carried a bit of a stigma for buyers who grew up with them in the 1990s.
But one can't help but wonder what Porsche would have done with a road-going minivan, whether it would have been trend-setting and whether we missed out on what could have been a line of sleek and sporty luxury minivans.