The Annual Banquet, Part 2: The Man Who Saved the Porsche 911
Lori Schutz, the daughter of Peter Schutz, was the guest speaker at our 2018 Annual Banquet. Peter Schutz was the CEO of Porsche AG from 1981 to 1987 and he was instrumental in turning around Porsche AG. At our annual banquet on October 27, Lori Schutz (the daughter of Peter Schutz) gave an inspiring speech about how her late father blocked the plan to end production of the signature 911 model, which remains the quintessential Porsche. She also told us how Peter made the decision to enter the Porsche 936 in the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans and won the race.
Peter Schutz was born in Berlin, Germany in 1930. According to industry sources, Ferry Porsche personally invited Peter Schutz to apply for the CEO position at Porsche AG. In 1980, when Porsche was in the midst of its first money-losing year, Peter was selected among 12 candidates to be the CEO of Porsche AG. Porsche AG had the following three issues at the time: the exchange rate increased the prices of German parts, the quality control problem, and the lacklustre interest in the new designs of the Porsche 924 and 928 models.
At the same time, the announcement to cancel the production of the Porsche 911 models led to low morale in the engineering department. While Peter was in the office of Helmuth Bott (Chief of Engineering at Porsche AG 1978-1988), he saw a chart that showed the projected production and sales numbers of the 924 and 928 models for the next 20 years, but the line for 911 ended in 1981. Peter used a large black marker to extend the 911’s line to the end of the chart, onto the wall, around the hallway and told Bott to “make it happen”! Peter also discovered that the quality control was merely due to a simple problem related to the camshaft, and that issue was quickly fixed.
During 1981, the Porsche racing team was planning to enter three modified 924s in 24 Hours of Le Mans but Peter knew these models had no chance of winning. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the world’s oldest sports car endurance race and one of the most influential in motorsports history. About 61 days prior to the race on June 13/14, Peter asked the engineer to pull a Porsche 936 from the museum display and install an experimental engine that Porsche had developed for Indy Car Racing. They had a whole team of engineers and staff that worked around the clock to build the race car in time for the race. The car was built at Weissach, which was approximately five kilometers away from the main plant.
Just a few days after Peter decided to enter the Porsche 936 into 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans, he received phone calls from the best race car drivers in the world – Jack Ickx, Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Al Holbert, Hurley Haywood, Vern Schuppan, and Hans Stuck who all told him they would like to drive a Porsche at Le Mans. Later, Peter found out the reason he got these phone calls… Heinz Metzger (one of the Porsche engine designers), had the connection with the race car drivers.
At the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans, Porsche tested the 2.6L engine which was derived from a never-raced Indianapolis 500 engine and fitted it in a pair of 936 chassis. Jack Ickx shared one of the updated 936s with Derek Bell; Jochen Mass, Vern Schuppan and Hurley Haywood drove the other. The engine test was successful. After the first hour of the race, Ickx and Bell built a large advance and remained in the lead for the rest of the race ( total of 354 laps) and they won by an even greater margin than in 1976 – 14 laps! Porsche also set a record in the history of Le Mans because the winning car ran the whole 24 hours without any issues other than adding engine oil and fuel and changing the brakes and tires. And it was the first time in 20 years that Professor Porsche went to watch the race.
During Peter’s tenure at Porsche AG, Porsche worldwide sales almost doubled from 28,000 units in 1980/81 to 53,000 units in 1986. The ultimate 911, (the 959), was also developed in 1986. Given Peter’s background as an engineer and his wealth of experience in marketing and management, Peter became a world-class speaker and presenter in many seminars and conferences after he retired. Peter passed away in November 2017 at the age of 87.
Peter wrote a book called, “The Driving Force, Getting Extraordinary Results with Ordinary People” and the book is about his life journey and lessons learned during his professional career. Lori Schutz will be the guest speaker at our Tuesday, March 12, 2019 Social, which will be hosted by Porsche Centre North Toronto. Advance registration is required and you can order the book when you register at www.clubregistration.net The cost of the book is C$32.50 or US$25.00. Please bring cash or cheque when you pick up the book from Lori at the Tuesday, March 12th Social, so you can save the shipping cost.
(Provinz: Jan 2019)