The rumors and spy shots and leaks have been coming for months, but now it's official: The 2014 Porsche Macan was officially unveiled on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
The Macan is a compact SUV, a new offering for Porsche. It will start at $49,900 in the U.S. -- but as with all Porsches, a long options list ensures that most buyers will pay considerably more.
The idea of a Porsche crossover might still seem strange to some, but consider this: The Macan's big brother, Porsche's Cayenne SUV, accounts for about half of the brand's global sales.
For Porsche's owner, Volkswagen Group (NASDAQOTH:VLKAY), that makes the Macan a big deal. Here's why.
Porsche's sales numbers are small, but its profit numbers aren't
Porsches sell in relatively tiny numbers, but they're immensely profitable. In the first 10 months of 2013, the Volkswagen Group delivered 7.85 million vehicles around the world. Of those vehicles, 133,140 -- 1.6% -- were Porsches. But through the first half of the year, Porsche provided 22% of the VW Group's operating profit.
Porsche's profit margin is among the very best in the global auto business. And as I noted above, Porsche's big Cayenne SUV has accounted for about half of those sales and a whole lot of profits.
A lot of those sales and profits are coming from China, where luxury SUVs, particularly compact luxury SUVs, are a white-hot segment seeing huge growth. Likewise, here in the U.S., small luxury SUVs like BMW's X3 have posted strong sales recently, prompting rival entries from several makers, from Ford's upcoming Lincoln MKC to Honda's Acura RDX.
The Macan is aimed directly at those segments, and that gives it a very good chance of becoming Porsche's best-seller.
The Macan is the compact SUV you'd expect from Porsche
The low-slung Macan is an attractive package as compact SUVs go. Even in entry-level S trim, the Macan comes with a twin-turbo V6 making 340 horsepower; a seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission; and a sophisticated active all-wheel-drive system.
The Turbo model bumps that up to 400 horsepower, good for 0-100 kmh (62 mph) sprints in 4.8 seconds, Porsche says.
Braking and handling -- there are three suspension packages offered -- should be up to Porsche standards (that is to say, very good). Again as you'd expect, the interior includes lots of leather and a high-end stereo system. And the Macan can be ordered with high-tech "smart" features like adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system.
There's also a diesel version, though Porsche isn't offering that in the U.S., at least not initially. The Macan S Diesel, as it's called, can do the 0-100 kmh sprint in 6.3 seconds, thanks to a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel engine making 258 horsepower.
All of that should add up to some very nice profits for VW Group.
The Macan will be a very profitable new Porsche
As I said above, the Macan starts at $49,900 -- an appealing price for a fast, capable compact SUV with Porsche's cachet. But as with all Porsches, the options list is long, and it includes many items that buyers coming from other luxury brands will expect to find.
Using the "build and price" tool on Porsche's U.S. site, I was able to easily option a Macan Turbo above $100,000, with options like heated seats ($525) and adaptive cruise control ($1,600) that you'd expect to be standard features on the Macan's top trim line.
At least, you'd expect that if you weren't familiar with Porsche's way with options lists. The company will make good profits on the few Macans that sell at the $49,900 entry price. But options are where the real profits are, and I suspect that most Macans will go out the door with plenty of them.
The upshot: a new best-seller for Porsche?
Long story short, I think it's very likely that the Macan will quickly become Porsche's best-seller. It's an appealing package that's entering a blazingly hot market segment with a competitive starting price.
The success of the Cayenne has shown that Porsche can post big sales -- and harvest big profits -- with an SUV. The new Macan stands an excellent chance of building on that success.
Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends BMW and Ford. You can connect with him on Twitter at @jrosevear. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.