"Porsche quality standard applies to model vehicles too"
Interview with Jörg Thilow, Porsche
Written by Peter Thomas
Porsche is used to heading the field. After all, motorsports success is part of the brand image of the Stuttgart-based sportscar maker. So it comes as no surprise that Porsche was voted a Top Model Brand at the end of 2022 at the Model Vehicle of the Year award, a big-time contest for the miniature car model scene. Seven other categories also saw Porsche take the win. The readers’ choice award organised by Modell Fahrzeug magazine was held for the 32nd time. Jörg Thilow from the Porsche Museum spoke with Spirit of Play about the fascination of model sports cars.
Mr Thilow, was the most recent readers’ choice award for the Model Vehicle of the Year a start-finish-victory for Porsche?
Jörg Thilow: Of course, we are thrilled about winning the category of Top Model Brand. But we are just as thrilled about the success in the different individual categories which multiple interesting racing cars from our past have won. That includes, for example the 1/43 Porsche 917 K Höcker from 1971, but also the 1/18 Porsche 911 GT3 R Falken from 2018. Some are special-interest models that appeal to collectors that pursue a special theme. They want to place their all-time dream car on their shelf – very detailed and often of a large scale. We are pleased that it is possible today to offer very good value for money. 20, 25 years ago, miniature replicas of such fine detailing would not have been available at those prices to a large target group. For us as a brand, this development is appealing because small series at a good price range close many gaps in the Porsche lineage in the individual scale and segments.
How does Porsche support the makers of these miniatures?
Jörg Thilow: Porsche aims to support toy and model car makers as best as possible under a strong partnership. We look at what the makers of the miniature models need. I for my part am responsible for product design at the Porsche Museum and help license partners with their vintage vehicles. For example, we share motifs from the picture archives and schedule an appointment for scanning the original sports or racing car. It takes quite some time before the finished model car goes on sale. This includes a loop by our archives which review the accuracy of the model’s execution. This goes hand in hand with our understanding of Porsche quality standards which apply to model vehicles too.
During the Model Vehicle of the Year award, the chief editor of the Modell Fahrzeug magazine, Andreas A. Berse, introduced a current survey according to which many model car collectors invest far beyond 1,000 euros a year into their hobby. Are miniatures that are meticulously executed more of a product for an affluent clientele?
Jörg Thilow: No, I don’t think you can generalise that. You see that also when visiting the Porsche Museum with its large shop: An average 450,000 people come to visit the museum annually, 130,000 of whom are shop customers. That includes not only model car collectors – the target group includes everything from the primary school student to a buyer who came to collect their new real-life Porsche. They are all inspired by the charisma that Porsche exudes both in the past and present. Many are emotionalised following their visit to the museum and had no plans to buy a model car before – but then decide to buy a keepsake. That is why we also have model vehicles in the entry-level price segment that are nevertheless good mini replicas.
How does the contact unfold between Porsche and the model car makers?
Jörg Thilow: That is a lively dialogue: Either the miniature makers approach us with an idea for a replica, or Porsche seeks a dialogue with the producers of the model cars, to drive the new models forward. Discussions are especially intensive when superb new cars are launched – like for example the Porsche 963 racing car which will launch in 2023. The new vehicle is very exciting for motorsports enthusiasts and quite often, such a topic will redirect the focus on vintage vehicles again.
The world of play is moving increasingly towards the digital realm. Which role do replicas of classic and more recent vehicles play for Porsche in the gaming domain?
Jörg Thilow: Those types of virtualisation are becoming increasingly important to us. E-sports is a field in which our brand is very present. For historical model vehicles in particular, this is an extremely exciting field that will be quite dynamic for some time to come. Young markets with a pronounced passion for gaming such as China thus come into an intensive contact with the world of classic automobiles. This arouses their curiosity for the kind of historical settings that our museum tells – or the respective miniature models.
Is there space at the Porsche Museum shop for model vehicles?
Jörg Thilow: That is, in fact, its primary focus. I have been with the company since the 1990s and knew the old Porsche Museum. Even then, our mission was to offer quality products to visitors, such as vintage model vehicles, beyond the actual exhibition. But sometimes, we create actual highlights with the miniatures at the museum. Spirit of Carrera RS was a successful special exhibition last year, for example, which showcased a complete array of toy and model vehicles of this legendary model. Visitors genuinely appreciated this.
About the author
Telling stories about technology and people: This has fascinated the journalist, author, cultural scientist and lecturer for more than 30 years. Technical toys are always in focus, from construction kits to interactive digital educational toys. After studying and working as a research assistant at university, Peter Thomas writes for daily newspapers, magazines and corporate publications in German and English-speaking countries. In addition to the world of games, his focus is on mobility, security, energy and medical technology.