The Cayenne is undoubtedly one of the most important models in the German automaker’s history. It’s Porsche’s lifesaver, with a goal to bring life to the company that was on the brink of bankruptcy. Thankfully, the Cayenne was successful in achieving its goal, and 20 years since the first Porsche SUV’s launch in 2002, we’re now in the third-generation model of the nameplate.
On that note, Porsche is celebrating two decades of Cayenne by letting us in on a little secret concerning its birth. Apparently, the automaker went to great lengths in keeping the Cayenne’s development behind closed doors.
Known as Project Colorado, the Cayenne differed greatly from other Porsches at that time – it wasn’t developed in Weissach. Instead, Porsche used a former computer assembly plant in Hemmingen to develop the SUV under the helm of Klaus-Gerhard Wolpert, the Cayenne’s head of product line.
The 3,800-square-meter (4,545-square-yard) facility sat without any company sign, plus the ground was surrounded by a fence and the office windows were mirrored. Each visitor was registered through tight security and was met by their Porsche contact prior to entry. Everyone needed to be supervised when exploring the Hemmingen site.
The three-story building became home to 260 Porsche engineers and 40 from Volkswagen – all with the goal to develop the Cayenne under strict confidentiality.
“The Cayenne product line was run like a company in its own right,” says Wolpert. “I had the entire budget and responsibility and my only boss at that time was Wendelin Wiedeking.” Wiedeking was Porsche’s former President and Chief Executive Officer from 1993 to 2009.
Today, the Hemmingen site is home to around 700 employees working on another breakthrough for Porsche – the Macan product line that’s to become the company’s first all-electric SUV.