Porsche C88 and Honda style

Car of the Day #8: The Porsche China Family Car

Porsche C88 and Honda style
Porsche C88 prototype. via Porsche

The C88 sedan is what Porsche had created for the Chinese market in 1994 but never put into production.

When visiting the Porsche Museum ages ago, I was happy to see the car was on display and I’m glad that, going on 30 years later, it’s not uncommon for Porsche to send it out for a show or exhibition.

On one hand, it seems almost criminal the car wasn’t produced at all. Though developed by Porsche Engineering in only four months(!), its specifications, features, and price might’ve given other compact sedans of that era something to worry about. 

On the other, if you look more deeply, some aspects of the project get a li’l icky in the pursuit of profit.

Porsche C88 prototype. via Porsche

As I understand it and as is widely reported, Porsche was nearly bankrupt in the early ’90s. Its turnaround began under the tenure then-new CEO of Porsche AG, Wendelin Wiedeking. He was 41 at the time. Between 1993-1994, he did everything possible to cut costs, including hiring Shin-Gijutsu, a Japanese company specializing in lean production techniques after careers spent within Toyota’s inner circle. 

One of the experts from Shin-Gijutsu had been in charge of Kaizen for Toyota, a bit like being in charge of Holy Water at the Vatican. Needless to say, Porsche was quickly on its way to shedding costs and modernizing its production. 

What about demand? As any automotive CEO in the early 1990s knows, one of the fastest ways to profit is by winning a lucrative joint venture contract, China Family Car, from the Chinese government to produce a 5-passenger vehicle.

Next, throw together an attractive prototype, memorize your speech in Mandarin, and introduce the car at the 1994 Beijing Motor Show, which is what Wiedeking did. A short time later, after hearing other bids from Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, and Opel, the Chinese government decided it didn’t want to award a contract to anyone and cancelled the program. All that time wasted.

We’ll never know if those other manufacturers also took their wares to India, peddling joint ventures there — but Porsche did. No bites. 

I’d love to be able to tell you that the first Ford Focus and Chrysler / Dodge / Plymouth Neon had a common father in the C88. Or that the platform was later repurposed as some junior racing car in a far-off land. 

No, but it’s a show piece packed with meaning. The seriousness of Porsche’s situation led the Germans to load it up with what we now call Easter Eggs. According to an excellent article at CarNewsChina

“The C in C88 stands for Cheap, Chinese characteristics (China), Comfort and Clean. ‘Eight’ is a lucky number in China.  The number also refereed to the price of the vehicle, calculated by Porsche at 88,000 yuan.”

Being such a hastily-developed project, I can’t say for sure where its 1.1-litre 4-cylinder engine, front-drive mechanicals, and five-speed transmission came from. Fuel consumption was a strong 5.8 L/100 km combined, owing to its low weight of 980 kg (2,160 lbs) and small stable of 67 horsepower. 

Here’s the point at which the car is finished, it’s ready to be shown — slap the Porsche crest on it and let’s gooooo.

Not yet. 

Porsche C88 prototype. via Porsche

There’s one more Easter Egg to talk about, and it’s the car’s obviously strange logo. I mentioned earlier that C88 was designed as a five-passenger car. True…but it was designed in such a way that only one of those passengers was meant to be a child. 

The logo is a direct reference to the Chinese government’s then-policy of “two parents, one child”. As a result, C88 is the only 4+1 passenger sedan I can recall. Was this design choice too far…or not far enough? We’ll never know.

Mahindra Racing x AI dipshittery

I’ve shared a number of opinions about AI, including how it’s nearly impossible for some image generators like Midjourney to iterate an image of a woman racing driver. All the more ironic now that Mahindra went through the trouble of creating an entirely AI-generated profile of a woman “employee” who would be acting as the company’s racing representative in some capacity.

  1. Hiring a woman to do a job that the AI wasn’t capable of in the first place — being an influencer within the racing community — is much more cost-effective than the alternative. The alternative: hiring a man to sit in a cubicle creating AI garbage for 10 minutes and then spending 8 hours backpedalling on social media as the Mahindra name is torn to shreds.
  2. For corporations of any size, there’s no excuse to waste people’s time with bad social media in 2024.
  3. At least we can still recognize the misogynistic human touch behind the AI? Right? Great news! Each and every one of us will be fooled by AI-generated content — if not AI avatars — eventually.

What utter shambles. Thoughts? Comments are at the very bottom of the page online, and linked at the top of each email with the speech bubble icon.

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