The development of the Carrera GT can be traced back to the 911 GT1 and LMP1-98 racing cars. Due in part to the FIA and ACO rule changes in 1998, both designs had ended. Porsche at the time had planned on a new Le Mans prototype for 1999. The car was initially intended to use a turbocharged flat-6, but was later redesigned to use a new V10 engine, pushing the project back to planned completion in 2000. The V10 was a unit secretly built by Porsche for the Footwork Formula One team in 1992, but later shelved. The engine was resurrected for the Le Mans prototype and increased in size to 5.7 litres. Unfortunately the project was canceled after two days of testing for the first car, in mid-1999, mostly due to Porsche's wish to build the Cayenne SUV with involvement from Volkswagen and Audi, thus requiring engineering expertise to be pulled from the motorsports division. It was also speculated that VW-Audi chairman Ferdinand Piëch wanted Audi's new Le Mans Prototype, the Audi R8 not to face competition from Porsche in 2004.
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Porsche did keep part of the project alive by using the 5.5 L V10 from the prototype in a concept car shown at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show, mainly in an attempt to draw attention to their display. Surprising interest in the vehicle and an influx of revenue provided from the Cayenne helped Porsche decide to produce the car, and development started on a road-legal version that would be produced in small numbers at Porsche's new manufacturing facility in Leipzig. Porsche started a production run of Carrera GTs in 2004, shipping the units with an MSRP of $440,000 USD and a dealer invoice price of approximately $414,800 USD. In addition, the delivery charge could be as much as $5,000 USD. The first Carrera GT went on sale in the US on January 31, 2004.
Originally a production run of 1,500 cars was planned. But Porsche announced in August, 2005 that it would not continue production of the Carrera GT through 2006, citing discontinuation was due to changing airbag regulations in the US. As of May 6, 2006, 1,270 GT's had been manufactured, with 604 being sold in the United States