The India Director talks to BlackBook about its growing business in the country and plans to launch an EV in 2020
Back in 1893, the Porsche household in Maffersdorf, then part of Bohemia, was the first to get an electric light in the village. A single visit to a nearby electricity plant is all it took the 15-year-old genius to design it. The same teenager grew up to become the founder of one of the most desired car brands in the world—Porsche.
Ferdinand Porsche (1875 – 1951) designed several automobile engines and cars in his lifetime, including a special one for himself and his family while in Austria, around 1909. Porsche’s successor and son, Ferdinand Jr (1909 – 1998) or Ferry, too inherited his father’s passion and designed a miniature version when he was just 10 years old. Growing up, he is also known to have designed and created his own sports car, for not being able to find the right one for himself. In 1948, Ferry forayed into making sports cars commercially. Since then, Porsche has been one of the most sought-after luxury sports car brands in the world.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Porsche manufacturing sports cars, a brand that’s still breaking boundaries, and looking to carve out a special niche in the Indian market.
While in midst of preparing for the celebrations, Porsche India Director Pavan Shetty tells BlackBook about the brand’s growth story, its legacy and future plans in the country. To kick off the festivities, the brand hosted community drives at its six dealerships in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Gurgaon, Kochi and Kolkata, from June 8 to 10.
The idea, says Shetty, is to get more people to experience the sports cars. “I keep stressing the importance of getting our customers excited. It’s not about happiness, but excitement,” says Shetty. “Like in the drives, it was exciting to see 50, 70, 100 Porsches on the road together. These events give a chance to our customers to meet fellow owners too.”
It’s all about experiential marketing. Porsche also organises track days, and plans to train their clients to drive on a race track this year, a rare opportunity for auto enthusiasts in India. “Nobody wants to buy a sports car unless they experience the thrill of driving one. When they do, they are hooked,” says Shetty.
Last year, they introduced a fast-lane service—this means that 75 per cent to 80 per cent of their customers are handed over their serviced cars the very same day.
The strategy seems to be working. In its six years in India, Porsche has done quite well. Last year, it sold 434 sports cars, creating a record of sorts. “Despite demonetisation and GST, which slowed down many businesses, Porsche’s sales in the country were stable,” Shetty says.
“It typically takes 12 months for a person to get introduced to and experience a sports car and finally own one,” he adds. Demonetisation added two more months to the process, but that didn’t deter them from eventually buying the car. “Porsche buyers are passionate drivers. It’s all about the heart. One may delay the decision of following or buying their passion, but not cancel it.”
GST, he says, has helped them offer uniform pricing across the country, which in turn streamlined a lot of business processes.
One of the important market segments in the country are young HNIs. “Our average customers’ age in European markets is about 50. Here, it’s 38 to 40, and this also includes women. About 25 per cent to 30 per cent of Porsche drivers are women,” says Shetty.
This year, Porsche in India has started selling spots for the new Cayenne, which will be launched in the fourth quarter. Many sports 9GTs will are also be delivered this year, after a waiting period of 10 to 12 months. Panamera Turbo, which costs around Rs 2 crore, has also had a good run in the Indian market. “The measurement of sentiment is excellent,” says Shetty. “Our customers are extremely passionate about our cars. Many of them have already decided which Porsche cars they want to buy in the next seven years and I also know of customers who have three and five Porsches in their family.”
Brushing aside our concern for lack of great roads to drive these cars on, Shetty says that Porsches can be driven in cities, to the office, restaurant, a golf course and also on a racing track. They can also easily offroad. His favourite roads are the Mumbai-Pune Expressway in the west, the stretch from Delhi to Agra in the north and the Bengaluru to Coorg road in the south.
The Centre’s plans to build EV (Electric Vehicle) infrastructure, electric charging points at different locations, would also benefit Porsche’s 2020 venture of launching EV cars in India. Their technology will power a car for 500 kilometres in a single charge. Exclusive charging points will be available in all its buyers’ homes and dealerships. In the last 70 years, Porsche has continuously evolved, introducing many firsts in the sports car industry. They were the first to make hybrid cars in the 1900s, have an engine at the back, and design a sports car with four doors. “There are many of these firsts that Porsche has made and we are really, really proud of that. We are also proud of the quality of our cars,” says Shetty. “At least 2/3 of all the cars that we have made over the last 70 years are still on road and that goes onto say a lot about the company. We make great drivers’ cars.”