The first thing that comes to mind when one hears the name Porsche is usually sleek, fast beautiful cars. And the reality is not that far off the mark. The company is owned by the Porsche and Piech families and has been a solid solvent company since it was founded in 1931 by Ferdinand Porsche.
Porsche has been a financially stable and independent company, seeming never to suffer hard times even when most car manufacturers appeared at the brink of financial ruin. It has been able to maintain its headquarters and manufacturing facilities within Germany, even when most other automakers were heading overseas and to Eastern Europe to cut production costs. It has been so successful in fact, that it is able to offer consulting services to other automakers. Audi, Studebaker, Daewoo and Subaru have all come to ask the advice of Porsche in some capacity or another.
Of course, everyone is aware of Porsche's involvement in European auto racing. It leads there as well with on Ferrari as its main competition. Porsche and Ferrari appeal to vastly different tastes when it comes to production vehicles. However, it is Porsche that outperforms Ferrari here as well. While it is true that Ferrari gets more money per car it sells, Porsche sells many more cars and thus is able to keep the lead here off the racetrack as well as on it.
Off the race track, Porsche works actively to stay ahead of well known rivals such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, whose Z4 competes directly with the Porsche Boxter, and other high profile names such as Lotus, Jaguar, Maserati and Corvette.
Porsche owns a majority of Volkswagen and takes a very active interest in the day-to-day activities of the Volkswagen operation. During World War 2, just as in much of the world, Volkswagen and Porsche turned from civilian car production to military grade production. Both arms and military vehicles were produced at its plants in Germany. Porsche, in particular, was actively engaged in design heavy-duty tanks during the war.
If the company has experienced any difficult times, those came immediately after World War 2. The Allied Powers were hard on Germany and Porsche was not spared from this. The founder of the company, Ferdinand Porsche was eventually arrested for war crimes against the world and while he was never tried for this, he did end up serving a 20-month sentence just the same. Ferdinand's son Ferry Porsche would be responsible for guiding Porsche through these difficult times until his father was released in 1947. While his father was imprisoned, Ferry was busy designing a car of his own.
These designs were the foundation for what would eventually become known as the Porsche 356. Because parts were very difficult to come by in the years immediately following World War 2, the 356 shared parts heavily with some of its Volkswagen relations, primarily the Beetles engine, gearbox and suspension. As Germany's sanctions were eased by the Allied powers, parts were more readily available and soon the Porsche was again made with 100% Porsche manufactured parts.