"A lot of the TTs that Audi sells in China, the smaller displacement 1.8-liter versions with rear-wheel instead of all-wheel-drive, are priced below that, Mercedes too," Roth said. We're guessing the comments about rear-wheel drive and a 1.8-liter engine are either typos or something was lost in translation, because Audi's Chinese website only lists a 2.0-liter engine, and most gearheads know the TT rides on a front-drive platform.
Audi's success is largely down to price – 542,800 yuan ($81,549, at today's rates) for a base TT. Roth called 600,000 yuan "a magical threshold for customers in China." To hit that price point, Porsche is dropping the 718's 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder – offered North America and Europe with 300 horsepower in base form – to 250 ponies. The Cayman starts at 588,000 yuan ($88,340) while the Boxster is 598,000 yuan ($89,842). The 350-hp Cayman S will carry on unchanged.
According to ANE, Roth said Porsche's Chinese strategy could drive 718 sales up to 4,500 units a year by 2017, nearly double the 2,500 Boxsters and Caymans sold in 2015. Could a similar lower-tiered strategy work in the US?
We'll need to put on our speculation hats. In the US, the base car is about 81 percent of the price of the 350-horsepower S model. If Porsche were to offer the same discount for the hypothetical, 250-hp 718s, it could set the starting prices at $43,659 for the Cayman and $45,360 for the Boxster. That lines up neatly with the $43,500 TT Coupe, but this theoretical 250-hp Boxster would fall about $1,640 less than Audi's soft top. We shouldn't forget Porsche's expansive options catalog – we doubt there'd be a lot of sub-$50,000 718s on dealer lots. But still, slashing over $10,000 off the price of a $54,000 car is a big ask – Porsche would almost have to de-content such a lower-tier model.
But – and this is a Kim K-sized but – moving the 718 downmarket would open the brand to a new range of consumers. Not only would these new cars be the cheapest sportscars from Porsche money could buy. In any case, Porsche's US sales are fine – in 2015, the Boxster/Cayman outsold the TT nearly six to one. And that's probably all we really need to know.