From the gorgeous 356 in the ’40s, iconic 911 in ’60s and to this decade’s 918 Spyder, Porsche’s legendary vehicles have become influencers through generations. Their cars have broken the mould of luxury performance vehicles time and again with their visions of beauty, science in design, and form-follows-function approach.
Ferry Porsche envisioned a sports car in the year 1948 that disrupted the status quo of heavy flamboyant automobiles with large engines. Compared to that, the Porsche 356, a lightweight sports car with a rear-mounted flat-four motor, not only looked sleek but was thoroughly fun to drive.
Over the course of the last seven decades, people began buying a Porsche to satisfy their emotional need rather than practical requirements. The automotive giant’s unwavering commitment to producing cars inspired by their slogan ‘intelligent performance’ has appealed to driving enthusiasts who wake at wee hours of the morning to hit trafficless roads: people who enjoy the romance of just starting up their flat-six motors, hearing it roar and going out for a leisurely drive just for the heck of it.
The German manufacturer, who forayed into the Indian market in the year 2004, has slowly been making headway as the most-sought-after luxury sports car label. As today marks the brand’s 70th anniversary, we catch up with Porsche India’s Director, Pavan Shetty, to discuss how the niche brand fares in India and what lies ahead.
* Importance of the Indian market for the brand
India is currently a small market as we do about 450 cars a year, but one that represents future potential as we are a huge country. We believe it only a matter of time that it becomes a large volumes market for Porsche.
* Have the profile of Indian buyers associated with Porsche changed lately?
One thing that has not changed is the passion for cars. We observe that the average age of buyers has decreased, their usage pattern has changed, with them using the cars more often. I have seen 911s with over 90k on the odometer! The owners’ perception and knowledge of the cars have definitely improved over the years.
* Electric-hybrid vehicles are making its way into the Porsche portfolio. What kind of response do you expect from India?
I think hybrid cars are very good for India. As they come paired with petrol engines, they offer high torque and are extremely fuel efficient. Our Panamera hybrid does about 100 kilometres per 3.1-litres of petrol. The extra power from the electric motors coupled with gasoline engine produces nearly 680 PS, making it faster and more enjoyable. However, we wouldn’t step away from the full-electric vehicle race, with the Mission-E arriving in the first quarter of 2019. This will help us complete our portfolio where we will have gasoline, hybrids, and electric cars.
* What’s in store for Porsche in 2019?
For a brand like ours, it’s important to remain stable and relevant. We don’t have a target like say 40-50 per cent. If we did, we won’t stay niche. We want to maintain a premium image, we want to cater to a Porsche-type clientele. So, this is a steady evolution where we will get closer to a customer, tell them what the brand is all about and what does mean to get associated with us. This is a process which takes a steady amount of time and the growth is steady.
* Why are Indian auto-aficionados so romantically-inclined to Porsche’s vehicles? Is it the after-sales experience?
The fundamental difference between Porsche and other brands are the motive of purchase. You buy Porsche to satisfy your emotional need than your practical requirements. When you have customers who are so emotionally hooked on to the car, what is required more than just say fixing the car, is also meeting their emotional connection. So, we train our field teams in not just to repair the car but also to empathise with them so that the owners feel that they are part of a family.
* Apart from the elite clientele in metro cities, how much has Porsche able to diversify to other cities in the country.
Today we have six dealer locations — Mumbai, Delhi, Kochi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, and Kolkatta. In term of the sports car, 75 per cent of sales come from the metro and tier-I cities and with SUVs, its well spread. Mumbai and Delhi still contribute to about 40-45 per cent of our total sales in India. But, we are lately receiving a lot of orders for special edition Porsche cars from other cities in the country. About our expansion plans, it is important that a market represents potential and our partners are commercially viable.
* Do the Cayenne and Macan SUVs still play a huge role in bringing customers into the brand?
Yes, if you say in volume terms, they contribute the majority of sales of Porsche in the country. But, if you ask me what the brand is known for in the country, it has to be the 911. After the arrival of the new 718 series, sports car now account for more than 30 per cent of the overall sales of Porsche in India.
* What has changed for the brand since you took over the leadership role at Porsche India in 2016?
We have done things in the last few years to increase the customer experience with events like track days and off-road sessions, which able us to showcase the true potential of various Porsche cars. We have gone ahead and introduced fast lane service, where owners can get their cars serviced in a day. In short, we have done things to enhance the ownership experience.
Ahead of the curve
Porche has always been synonymous with racing. Not surprisingly, what actually put the German car maker on the map was the 550 Spyder that went on to win many renowned rallies in the ’50s.
Looking forward to the future, the brand has invested their efforts in building an all-electric sportscar - the Mission E, which is slated for a global launch in 2019. “We are optimistic as the Mission E will sustain all the characteristics of a true Porsche, only that the powertrain will be all-electric,” states Pavan Shetty, director, Porsche India.
In 1965, Porsche launched its most-successful model, the 911, a sub-brand that has continued to be in series production till this very day. Porsche has sold more than one million 911s over its seven generations, making it an immortal being in the world of sports cars.