No. 1018
October 16, 2019
 

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Autoextremist.com, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Monday
Sep302019

THERE WILL BE A KIND OF HUSH ALL OVER THE WORLD.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. I never thought I would begin a column by referencing the Les Reed/Geoff Stephens composition made famous by Herman’s Hermits back in March of 1967, but there’s a first time for everything, I guess. 

I was reminded this past week – yet again – that the fundamental transformation that’s about to swallow the automobile industry whole is upon us. We just survived the first week of gushing praise for the all-new, all-electric Porsche Taycan, and that was just from the first reviews trickling in. We’re going to be reading and hearing more about this new Porsche, and then it will start arriving on the streets and byways of America, which will be when the weight of this fundamental transformation to all-electric vehicles – including mostly electric Porsches – will start to get very real.

The radical transformation of Porsche, as the entire auto industry moves to electrification, will be the most interesting to watch, because the Taycan represents just the tip of the iceberg for the VW Group’s star performance luxury brand. Model year 2022 is when things really start to accelerate for Porsche. The Macan, which is Porsche’s biggest seller, goes all-electric in 2022. Think about that for a moment. Porsche is betting the farm that its biggest selling model will continue its sales momentum without missing a beat after it becomes fully electric. Not only that, the 718 Spyder and 718 Coupe will get electric versions as well in 2022, as Porsche slowly but surely moves toward becoming a mostly electric automaker.

Is there any doubt that Porsche can pull this off? If the early reports of the Taycan provide any indication, there is absolutely no doubt that Porsche can deliver on its all-electric promise. It’s clear that Porsche has the talent and the engineering expertise to design, build and execute the most attractive high-performance, all-electric cars in the world. But there is one part of this “sure thing” concerning Porsche’s all-electric future that I remain skeptical about, and that is the sound. Or lack thereof. This is one part of Porsche’s fundamental transformation to mostly electric vehicles that is not guaranteed for success.

If a Porsche takes the iconic “Tunnel of Trees” on M-119 north out of Harbor Springs, Michigan, and it doesn’t make any noise, was it even there? And what about that essential Porsche sound? It has been watered-down and degraded over time as Porsche keeps cranking out SUVs and 4-cylinder turbo 718s. In fact, let’s face it, except for the magnificent sound emanating from Porsche’s factory 911 RSR racing machines in the IMSA GTLM class, which reminds us all of what great Porsches sound like, the Porsche sound has been corrupted and damn-near neutered.

Even Porsche knows that it has a sound “problem” with its burgeoning line of all-electric vehicles. How do we know this? Because Porsche is offering what it calls Porsche Electric Sport Sound on the Taycan Turbo S and optional for the Taycan Turbo. (By the way, Porsche has decided that it will continue to use the “Turbo” and “Turbo S” model designations for its highest performance offerings, even though all-electric vehicles don’t have turbo anything. Makes absolutely zero sense to me.)

What is Porsche Electric Sport Sound? Porsche PR minions say that it "makes the vehicle's own drive sound even more emotionally charged and richer with its innovative character both on the outside and inside." (Emotionally charged and richer? They’re kidding, right? I loved my slot car set as a kid, but there was nothing emotionally charged about the sound of it, at all.) And those PR minions continued by saying, "disturbing noises from the drive architecture are deliberately minimized" while "harmonious, emotive sounds matching what the car is doing are amplified." 

 

(Porsche)

Translation? The Taycan sounds like a glorified slot car without a lot of acoustic help. Porsche will make Electric Sport Sound standard on the Taycan Turbo S and optional on the Turbo, with the driver being able to activate and deactivate it at will. And in case you’re wondering why Porsche couldn’t have made the option standard on all Taycans, well, why would we expect Porsche - which is known for having the most usurious option lists in the entire industry - to do anything different? But I digress.

Back to this fundamental transformation thing. The dawn of the Electric Era is going to be a jarring adjustment. The “emotionally charged and richer” part will consist of manufactured sounds that will be inner directed to the people inside the cars and SUVs (and in some cases projected so that pedestrians can hear an oncoming vehicle). As for the actual sounds of a BEV, there’s no real “there” there. 

Don’t think that’s true? Have you watched a Formula E race lately? I would like to say that it’s like watching paint dry, but that would do a disservice to the beauty of the drying process. The all-electric open-wheel racing series has zero visceral appeal because it has no urgency of sound. Nothing resonates in your gut except for the dulcet tones of slot car sets from childhoods gone by. 

And that’s what’s going to happen to our streets and byways. And please spare me the idea that the performance of the BEVs will make up for everything else that’s not quite right, because it just isn’t going to work that way. The new sound of silence that will permeate everything about everyday life will be a massive adjustment for everyone. And for a lot of people, that adjustment will be ongoing well into the future. 

We are about to enter a quiet period where the guttural moans from muscle cars and the searing shrieks from exotic sports cars will become welcome respites from the sewing machine cacophony that will come to define the Electric Era. 

As a kind of hush falls all over the world. 

That’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.

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