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Porsche unveils its first-ever electric car

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The all electric Porsche AG Taycan luxury automobile drives on stage as it is unveiled at Berlin-Neuhardenberg airport in Neuhardenberg, Germany, on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019.

[FRANKFURT] Porsche picked Niagara Falls, a Chinese wind farm and a solar site in Germany to unveil its first all-electric sports car, underscoring the new Taycan's central role in turning parent Volkswagen AG into the world's leading seller of battery-powered vehicles.

After a bumpy start for sister brand Audi's e-Tron, the Taycan, with the top Turbo S version priced at US$185,000, is for the time being the flag-carrier in VW's massive drive to unseat e-car pioneer Tesla Inc. The wraps came off Wednesday at simultaneous events in its three biggest markets, with Porsche - known for churning out roaring sports cars - presenting the vehicle bathed in a backdrop of sustainable-power imagery.

"It's a true Porsche," the brand's chief executive officer, Oliver Blume, said at the German leg of the event that unveiled a white version of the sedan. "But it's different than anything we built in the past 70 years. Porsche is positioning itself for a sustainable future."

Despite all its engineering muscle as the world's largest automaker, VW has struggled to slow Tesla's march. The debut of the e-Tron, a challenger to the Model X sport-utility vehicle, was marred by delays and a recall. Tesla chief Elon Musk has meanwhile stretched downmarket with the lower-priced Model 3, which started selling in Europe this year and is about to begin production in China.

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Like Tesla with the Model 3, Porsche is rolling out higher-priced versions of the Taycan first, starting with Turbo S and the US$150,900 Turbo. The base version of the car is expected to be priced below US$100,000, and a Gran Turismo derivative will start sales at the end of next year.

The car will generate a "good margin" starting with the top end versions, Mr Blume said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. Returns won't be as high as for other models "but this is a start for e-mobility."

The Taycan, boasting technical superlatives such as ultra-fast charging, and the mass-market VW ID.3 will be on display at next week's Frankfurt auto show, and are slated to start production later this year, leading VW's more than US$33 billion push to produce battery-powered cars across all price segments. It's a plan the German manufacturer can ill-afford to see falter.

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