Peter Schutz was CEO of Porsche from January 1, 1981 to December, 31, 1987. He was the first American to hold the post. He's also the reason the Porsche 911 still exists today. The Germans had made the decision to axe their icon, saying the 911 was "outmoded." He disagreed.
In our June issue, Peter talks about the day in 1981 that he walked into Helmuth Bott's office and dramatically rescued the 911.
The decision didn't sit well with me. While the car could be temperamental at times, at least it had character. That's what people loved most about it. You had to remain vigilant with your inputs, but for those who could—those with training, with skill, who could catch it in a slide and bring it back into line—the 911 was king. It was the only car worth driving because it was the only car that would push back.
You have to understand that, in Germany, once a decision is made, it's made. As far as the company was concerned, the 911 was history. But I overturned the board's decision in my third week on the job. I remember the day quite well: I went down to the office of our lead engineer, Professor Helmuth Bott, to discuss plans for our upcoming model. I noticed a chart hanging on his wall that depicted the ongoing development trends of our top three lines: 911, 928, and 944. With the latter options, the graph showed a steady rise in production for years to come. But for the 911, the line stopped in 1981.
Then, the scene becomes something straight out of a movie, reinforcing once again that truth is so much more compelling than fiction.