In the wake of former Porsche CEO Peter Schutz’s recent death, enthusiasts were quick to honor him as the savior of the 911. But there was so much more to the Schutz story than that: He was born in 1930 in Germany to a Jewish family, fleeing in 1938 amid the rise of the Third Reich — first to Cuba, then to Chicago. He cultivated a love of cars from an early age, attained a flying license and set off on a career as an engineer, which eventually led him to a vice presidency at Cummins.
Still, becoming the first American CEO of Porsche in 1981 was another deal entirely — and exactly what the German automaker needed at the time. Schutz brought what he called a “pioneering spirit” to the conservative company, something it desperately needed; notably, he convinced Porsche to keep building the 911 — from today’s perspective, it’s hard to imagine the model facing the chopping block — but just as critically, he steered the company toward aggressive growth at a time when the automaker thought its best bet was to “shrink itself healthy.”
Schutz retired from Porsche in 1987, but the impact of his years at the company can still be felt today. Whether Porsche would even exist in its current form at all today (let alone exist as a highly successful producer of a range of more or less traditional sports cars and hot-selling SUVs) without Schutz’s time at the helm is doubtful. To learn more about the man and his critical role setting the stage for Porsche’s ongoing success, check out our extensive profile below.
Autoweek July 29, 1985 — Profile of Porsche CEO Peter Schultz