We asked executives in town for the LA Auto Show a few questions about cars, driving and the future of mobility. Here are some answers from Porsche Chief Executive Klaus Zellmer.
What is your daily driver, and how long is your average commute?
Right now I’m driving a Panamera Turbo. My commute to our office near the Atlanta airport varies depending on traffic, but with an open highway I can make it in 20 minutes. Stop-and-go can take twice as long, but the car makes it hard to complain.
What is your favorite weekend or summer holiday drive?
The North Georgia mountains have some incredible roads for something like a 718 Cayman. I have a route I like that takes about 4 hours with a perfect mix of tight turns, fast corners and scenery. Driving the PCH is something I love to do when I’m here in a 911 Cabriolet. My very first time in the country, I was 19 years old and I took a flight from Germany to Los Angeles with my best friend. We bought an Oldsmobile Delta 88 and drove it 2,800 miles across the country, so when I get the chance to drive here it’s almost like reliving that memory.
What historic car or truck do you wish you owned?
Growing up, I always had a soft spot for rear-engine Volkswagens like the Bus and the Beetle. A while ago, I decided to bring that dream to life and I found a Samba in Brazil and had it restored. In fact I just finished importing it to the U.S. earlier this year in time for my birthday.
What is the top speed you’ve ever traveled in a car, and where did that take place?
As you know, it’s not so unusual for drivers in Germany to reach high speeds in parts of the Autobahn where there is no speed limit. In a 911 Turbo S, it’s not out of the question for me to exceed 300 kilometers per hour, which is almost 190 miles per hour. I might have gone faster once or twice. While speed is great, I will always stress that safety comes first.
What is the biggest challenge currently facing the automotive industry?
This has always been an industry based on innovation, but our pace is changing. Electrification, autonomous driving, digitalization — there will be more challenges to the auto industry in the next 5 years than there have been in the last 50. It’s an environment that creates immense opportunities.
What is the most exciting change currently at work in the automotive industry?
Changes in transportation technology today are amazing. Electric cars are taking hold like never before; charging times are decreasing while the necessary infrastructure is coming online. At the same time, we are finding new ways to increase the performance of our internal combustion and plug-in hybrid powertrains. Earlier this year we announced the new 911 GT2 RS, which makes 700 horsepower. It’s a good time to be working for Porsche.
If the future offered flawless autonomous driving, would you keep a car for weekend driving?
I don’t think I would have a choice. My wife would be upset with me if I got rid of my Samba after all the effort we put into finding it! The truth is that I will always have a car I can drive. The Porsche of the future will always have a steering wheel and offer autonomous assistance systems, but the point is that you will be able to drive it. Why? The feeling of interacting with your car is at the heart of Porsche.
The LA Auto Show runs Dec. 1-10 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Times coverage is at latimes.com/autos.