A picture I’ve seen of the very first Porsche booth at the 1949 Geneva Motor Show clearly shows Ferry Porsche (Ferdinand’s son) as well as the former’s sister, Louise Porsche. Louise wound up marrying Porsche’s lawyer and business partner, Anton Piëch. You may have heard of one of their sons—Ferdinand—the genius engineer behind things as varied as the Porsche 917, Audi Quattro, the Mercedes five-cylinder inline diesel engine, and the Bugatti Veyron. Famously, Ferdinand has 10—yes, 10—children including one named Anton who goes by Toni, who together with a former lithographer named Rae Stark, has started a new company called Piëch Automotive.
Swiss-based Piëch Automotive debuted a car at this year’s Geneva show called the Mark Zero. It’s an all-electric, all-wheel-drive grand tourer with 603 horsepower from three 201-hp motors—one on the front axle, two on the rear. Thing is, Piëch Auto claims that its new car is “flexible and open,” meaning that an internal-combustion engine of some sort can fit, as well as a hydrogen fuel-cell powertrain.
Back to this electric version. Piëch’s battery partner is a Hong Kong company called Destin Group, and it is claiming that due to a new type of battery cell that produces almost no heat during both charging and discharging, the batteries themselves can be charged rapidly. Eighty percent of the Mark Eight’s 300-mile range can be had in less than five minutes, they say. Moreover, because they don’t get so hot, the batteries can be air-cooled, just like the Porsches Piëch’s grandfather used to make. It’s the sort of battery tech that needs to be seen to be believed—it would mark a major breakthrough—but it does at least sound nice.
The Mark Zero is handsome but in a seen-it-before sort of way. Not derivative, but there’s some Ferrari Daytona, Aston Martin DB9/Vanquish, Jaguar E-Type and F-type, Dodge Viper, the 2004 Ford Shelby Cobra Concept, and even Spyker C8. All are fabulous lookers, but there’s nothing new, nothing groundbreaking about the sheetmetal. Which might be exactly how the Piëch team wants it.
Says Stark, “Most cars today are filled with a lot of high-tech features, and they come installed with these beautiful and impressive display screens. But it is increasingly rare that driving a sports car gives us the feeling of driving a dream car.” In other words, the Mark Zero’s simple yet elegant cabin is a throwback to a more analog time, and to my eyes at least, the body is an homage to dream cars past. In a time when carmakers are openly discussing the day when they’ll begin selling cars without steering wheels, I think the world needs more Mark Zeros. No word on price but cars should be in customers hands by 2022.