Ferdinand Porsche founded the company that bears his name in 1931, in Stuttgart, Germany. At first, Porsche did not build cars, but offered vehicle development work and consulting.
Its first major breakthrough came in 1934 when Adolf Hitler himself gave the contract for building a people's car (a Volkswagen) to Ferdinand Porsche. Production of the Volkswagen Beetle was put on hold during the Second World War when the company founded by Ferdinand Porsche turned towards military production.
Based on the Beetle, Porsche produced 52,000 Kübelwagen and 15,584 Schwimmwagens. Also, Ferdinand Porsche designed several heavy tanks but lost the contract to produce the Tiger I and Tiger II to Henschel. The famous superheavy Maus tank was designed by the german engineer in the later stages of the war, although only two prototypes were ever made.
Ferdinand was imprisoned at the end of the war, facing charges of war crimes, though he was never put on trial. While in prison, his son, Ferry Porsche decided to build his own car. This was the famous 356. Initially, it was built in a small sawmill in Gmünd, Austria. The dealers of the time liked the car so they ordered more units to be produced. Ferry and his sister Louise founded Porsche Konstruktionen GesmbH while their father was still in prison. After Ferdinand was released he took over the production of the 356 and commissioned Zuffenhausen-based company, Reutter Karosserie, to build the body for the 356. He constructed an assembly plant across the street from Reutter, in Zuffenhausen. The headquarters of the company is still located there as well as its main production facility.
The 356 used many components taken from the Volkswagen Beetle, as parts were in short supply in post-war Germany. It lived until the mid-1960s and went through several evolutionary stages. All links with Volkswagen were gradually cut, as Porsche began to use more and more parts made in house.
1964 brought the launch of the very first 911, a legend in automotive history that is still very much alive today. From the beginning, the 911 used an air-cooled, six-cylinder boxer engine and had rear-wheel drive.
The 911 was due for a replacement in the 1970s, but the 928, its intended successor never managed to live up to the expectations, so it was discontinued in 1995. The brand made a huge success out of the Cayenne, its first SUV, launched in 2002. It shared the platform with the VW Touareg and Audi Q7.
The relationship with the Volkswagen has always been close, dating back to the days of the Beetle. Porsche and the VW Group merged in 2011.
Since then, Porsche dominates the luxury sports cars segment.