Mayor Shirley Franklin did not have to return to Leipzig, Germany, to celebrate Porsche Cars North America Inc.’s 10th anniversary March 10.
She only had to go as far as the company’s headquarters on Hammond Drive in Atlanta.
Ms. Franklin visited the Porsche Leipzig Gmbh factory, run by Stuttgart, Germany-based parent company Porsche AG, last October and rode shotgun during a test drive of the company’s 911 GT2 sports car.
“I like the boldness with which you’ve both built and designed your vehicles, and then have the nerve to test drive them with unsuspecting people like myself,” Ms. Franklin joked to a crowd of employees at the anniversary celebration.
She said that Atlanta-based public policy consultant Wayne Reece suggested the unscheduled visit to Leipzig during a trade mission to Nuremberg, a sister city of the Georgia capital.
“I decided to take a special two-day tour to Leipzig because I know that you have meant so much to Atlanta, and I wanted to express that first-hand to the corporate leadership there,” Ms. Franklin said.
She also noted the company’s involvement in United Way of America, a community-based charity with a branch in Atlanta.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, outgoing president and CEO of Porsche’s North American operation, praised Ms. Franklin’s ethics, water infrastructure and financial reforms, saying that she “symbolizes the greatness we have come to know in Atlanta.”
“She has worked to build a best-in-class city which could match with Porsche,” he said. “We also try to be best-in-class.”
Ms. Franklin said that the company had been “hitting on all cylinders” since moving its U.S. headquarters from Reno, Nev., to the Georgia capital in 1998.
Porsche has increased its staff from 35 to 245 and introduced several new models since moving to Atlanta, Mr. Schwarzenbauer said. Last year Porsche North America set a company record with nearly 35,000 vehicles sold.
He added that the company is to introduce more models to the U.S. market over the next two years, including a hybrid model of the Cayenne SUV in 2009. An upcoming sedan model, the Panamera, is sparking interest among car enthusiasts, with leaked photos of the vehicle during test drives showing up on several Web sites.
Mr. Schwarzenbauer took the opportunity to introduce his replacement, Detlev von Platen, who will take over in April. Mr. Schwarzenbauer has accepted a board membership with Audi AG in Ingolstadt, Germany.
He also presented Ms. Franklin with a plaque recognizing her accomplishments as mayor and with a model GT2 to commemorate her test ride in Leipzig.