"Supervisory Board lays foundation for integrated automotive group". That was the flat, bizarrely understated title of a press release issued by Volkswagen yesterday as it announced plans to complete its takeover of the sports-car maker Porsche. The dry communiqué betrayed not the slightest hint of the drama that lay behind one of this year's most significant transactions in the automotive industry.

Alleged feuding between different branches of the Porsche family, boardroom intrigue, exotic foreign investors, ballooning debt and a dramatic turning of tables in which Porsche, which last year tried to acquire Volkswagen, itself became the prey rather than the hunter. This one had them all.

So what does this mean for the cars? It's tempting to think that this won't make much difference in terms of the product; after all, the histories of Porsche and Volkswagen have been intertwined since the beginning. The rear-engined architecture of the 911 reflects the early common roots of the Porsche range with the Beetle, and the two companies jointly developed a sports-car, the VW-Porsche 914, to replace Volkswagen's Karmann Ghia and Porsche's 356, athough that one wasn't regarded as a success.

The Porsche 924 was originally designed - by Porsche - as a Volkswagen, and was full of mass-market VW and Audi parts. When the 1970s oil crisis gave VW cold feet, Porsche made the car its own. Years of honing and upgrades turned it into the 944 and 968, and made it one of the most successful model families in the company's history. The main point of cooperation between Volkswagen and Porsche today is in the field of SUVs; VW's Touareg and Porsche's Cayenne are sisters under the skin.

But the success of the cooperation between the two companies probably owes much to the creative tension built into the "close but not too close" relationship they share; it's one thing for a proudly independent Porsche to be able to draw upon the resources of Volkswagen as it sees fit - quite another for it to be part of a big group under the VW masterplan, constantly having to worry whether it is treading on the toes of Volkswagen's other sporty luxury brands, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini.

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