Porsche AG will meet strict U.S. fuel economy standards of 35.5 miles per gallon when they go in force by 2016, Detlev Von Platen, the German automaker's North American president, said on Friday.


A worker mounts the Porsche bonnet logo for a Panamera car at the final production unit at the Porsche plant in Leipzig, September 29, 2009.Fabrizio Bensch

Von Platen, in an interview with Reuters, said that meeting the standards is a key challenge for the luxury sports car maker. He said that gasoline-electric hybrids will make up 10 percent to 15 percent of two of its top sellers in the U.S. market, the four-door Panamera and the Cayenne SUV, by 2016.

The U.S. fuel economy standards will affect 2017 model year light vehicles, including cars and light trucks.

We have been hit the hardest in this market on the (fuel efficiency) standards, said Von Platen, noting that the Stuttgart-based carmaker has light cars but powerful engines that guzzle gasoline. Its top-selling 911 line of sports cars get less than 20 miles per gallon in city driving.

The United States is Porsche's biggest market and has been for decades. Von Platen said between 28 percent and 30 percent of its global sales are made there.

China in the last year overtook Germany as the second-biggest market for Porsche. Von Platen said between 12,000 and 13,000 Porsches will be sold in China this year. U.S. sales are on pace to reach 23,000 this year.

Von Platen declined to offer a sales forecast, other than to say that he expected Porsche's U.S. sales to grow and gain more share in the luxury sports car market.

Consumer confidence will be key in determining how large that sales increase is, he said.

Von Platen said that Porsche takes 25 percent of and is the leading player in the U.S. niche segment of sports cars over $60,000. That is up from 20 percent three years ago, he said.

The 2011 merger of Porsche with Volkswagen will have no visible impact on Porsche in the United States, Von Platen said, but it will affect the brand behind the scenes.

Von Platen said the two companies will become more efficient by sharing platforms on some models and by sharing some research resources to be able to not only produce cars which will keep their characters and keep their spirit but also be able to meet (fuel) standards which are becoming more and more tough in the world, not only in the United Stats, but also in Europe and in China.

There are no plans to have dual Porsche-VW dealerships. There are 199 U.S. dealerships and there are no plans to greatly expand, he said.

Porsche spoke to Reuters from California where he is attending the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance auto show to celebrate Porsche's 60th anniversary of selling cars in the United States.

Porsche entered the U.S. market in New York in 1950, still one of its key sales areas, along with major cities in the Northeast, Florida and California, Von Platen said. About 29 percent of Porsche's U.S. market is in California.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)