Porsche started selling cars in America just two years after the 356 arrived in Germany.
Porsche was founded in 1931, but it wasn't until 1948 when its first sports car, the Porsche 356, rolled off the assembly line and was certified for road use in Germany. Just two years later, the automaker started selling cars in the US, making this year the 70th anniversary of Porsche's arrival in America. Initially, the Porsche 356 was imported into the US by Austrian Max Hoffman, who owned a dealership in New York.
The first two 1.1-liter 356 coupes were delivered to Hoffman in the autumn of 1950. At that year's Paris Motor Show, he met with Ferdinand Porsche, who wanted to sell just five cars a week in America. "If I can't sell five a week, I'm not interested," Hoffman replied, which led to Porsche agreeing on a US import contract of 15 cars per year.
At the time, establishing Porsche in the US market wasn't easy as the 356 was more expensive and had a smaller engine than its rivals, but Hoffman knew its blend of "durability, track-bred agility and everyday usability" would help it stand out from its rivals. However, Porsche didn't have any advertising budget, which means Hoffman was faced with the daunting task of establishing the brand to American customers. In promotional materials, Hoffman described the 356 as "one of the World's Most Exciting Cars" with "a new conception in handling, roadholding, suspension and safety never known before."
The gamble paid off, as Hoffman sold 11 Porsche cars every week by 1954, which was 30 percent of Porsche's annual production. During the 356 model's final year of production, Porsche's US market share increased to 74.6 percent. Building on this success was the more affordable Porsche 356 Speedster, which started at just $2,995.
In the following years, Porsche's presence in the US increased with the creation of the independent distribution network, The Porsche of America Corporation, in 1955. In 1969 the company formed part of the Porsche Audi division of Volkswagen of America before Porsche Cars North America was established in Reno, Nevada, in 1984.
The 1990s proved to be a challenging time for Porsche until the arrival of the Boxster in 1998, which attracted new audiences to the German automaker in the US. Another key milestone for Porsche's growth in the US was the introduction of the Cayenne in 2003, the company's first SUV that became its best-selling model in the US for several years.
Like many automakers, Porsche's global sales dropped due to the financial crisis in 2009, with US sales dropping below 20,000 cars for the first time since the 1990s.
Since then, however, Porsche's US sales have continued to grow every year thanks to new models such as the Panamera and the Macan. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Porsche Club of America in 2015, Porsche built the 911 GTS Club Coupe, limited to just 60 units exclusively for the US. This was followed by the production of the one-millionth Porsche 911, which traveled the same New York streets that Max Hoffman had driven in 1950.
2019 was also a landmark year for Porsche in America, with sales increasing to a record 61,568 units and the introduction of the brand's first fully electric car, the Taycan, deliveries of which started in December 2019. Let's hope Porsche is planning to build a limited-edition commemorative car to celebrate the brand's 70th anniversary in America.