Finding your point of entry to the timeless world of Porsche
Monday, November 17, 2014
Back in July, I made a couple of observations about the current Porsche business model.
The first one was that an entry-level Porsche was best defined as a used Porsche. Whether that means a 30-year-old 944 or a 12-year-old 996, it's a big difference compared to new Porsches starting at the $60,000 range — not what one would traditionally call entry-level pricing. The second observation was that Porsche has definitely been targeting a broader and less traditional (at least for Porsche) customer base with the introduction of the SUV and sedan product lines.
Now, fast-forward a few months to comments by Detlev von Platen, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, concerning the entry-level product question. Apparently, I was merely an observer of what Porsche had already decided. When asked about the possibility of the new 718 entry-level Porsche model, the response was as follows:
"We're not talking about entry models at Porsche," von Platen said. "Our entry model is our preowned program." He further commented that the Macan is acting as "a kind of entry point to the brand attracting new customers."
So should we be concerned? Is this a bad thing for the future of the Porsche ownership base? I really don't think so.
Porsche's corporate siblings, VW and Audi, are more than capable of providing new products to compete with the Subaru WRX STI's and Nissan 370Z's of the world. Porsche, quite frankly, can and should do the same with its preowned program.
Why would a potential Porsche owner settle for a new 370Z when he could have a low-mileage Cayman or even a 2005 911 with 78,000 miles? He wouldn't, he would want a Porsche. This brings me to my latest observations.
"The first Porsche, built in 1948, is still with us. ... It will live on in all of our cars." — Ferry Porsche
This quote really stood out when I realized that all of my immediate friends who own Porsches — myself included — bought their first one used. It had nothing to do with the cost of entry; it was all about the point of entry. What point of entry do I mean? I'll explain.
Porsche owners, at least from my perspective, share a common enthusiasm for the Porsche brand and the driving performance and experience that it provides. All of Porsche's products carry this DNA, regardless of engine position, cooling type or number of doors. That is what enables new and preowned Porsches seduce and capture their owners. It's the esthetics and the experience, not necessarily the "newness."
While Porsche owners share a common enthusiasm for the Porsche brand and Porsche performance, they do not necessarily share a common opinion as to what design best defines it. You know the discussions — air-cooled vs. water cooled, front engine, rear engine, midengine, and please don't forget the "Oh no! Not an SUV!" debate.
We all had our definition of what we wanted our first Porsche to be, hence my "point of entry" observation. My friends who bought 1980s vintage air-cooled 911s as their first Porsche had no interest in buying a new 1990s or 2000s 911. The 1988 911 with a G50 transmission was their preferred point of entry into Porsche ownership.
My point of entry was a 1983 944. I had been in 911s and Boxsters, but as a refugee from the '80s, the 944 had been one of my icon cars — the Porsche to have back in the day, the one I thought I wanted. This particular car had been in my custodianship for a couple of years when the then current owner — a good friend of mine — asked me if I would like to finally take it off of his hands for a modest sum of money. Oh yeah, uh-huh!
Admittedly, the more time I had spent caring for the car, the more eager I had become for him to finally give up on storing the car and allow me to buy it. As any good friend would do, I decided to "do him a favor" it take it off his hands. I've since bought two more, sold one of those, and am working to get the "scruffier" one ready for track days next year.
So that leaves us with the market expansion observation — you know, the comment about the Cayenne and Macan acting as entry points to the brand attracting new customers.
The Cayenne has been a sales success and brought the Porsche experience to many new and potentially long-term Porsche owners. From my humble observing point, it has done nothing to dilute the Porsche brand or driver experience.
As for the Macan, von Platen has stated that he expects possibly 80 percent of Macan buyers to be first-time purchasers of a new Porsche. According to popular reviews of the Macan, those first-time buyers will be rewarded with performance that is everything one would expect of a vehicle with a Porsche badge on the hood, a vehicle that was designed to be driven.
Isn't that what Ferry Porsche intended?
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