Let's begin with a story about two new cars launched by two well-known, established car companies. One launch went very, very well; the other went very, very wrong.
The first car in our story was launched by Porsche, a relatively small player in the multi-trillion dollar global automotive industry,1 renowned for its 911 sports car that will take you down the road at nearly 200 mph.
In the early 1990s, Porsche was speeding off a financial cliff—if not at 200 mph, then pretty rapidly. Annual sales were a third of what they had been in the 1980s. The company's manufacturing processes were inefficient and defective. The new CEO, Wendelin Wiedeking, at 41 years old the youngest of a new generation of German auto manufacturing executives, decided to institute Japanese-style manufacturing techniques and quality improvements. Costs fell and sales rose, and the company was able to avoid disaster.
The new CEO had bought Porsche some time. He knew the company needed a fundamental change—something different, something new. It needed, as most companies eventually do, to innovate—or risk losing everything. It needed a new car.
In the second half of the 1990s, the company began planning an automobile that was far outside the sports car niche it had focused on successfully for 50 years. Porsche decided to make a sport-utility vehicle—an SUV—a family car associated not with racing's checkered flags but with soccer moms and ...