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Interview: Dr Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa

Interview: Dr Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa

From the new Taycan launch to Porsche’s massive electrification programme, Dr Manfred Bräunl discusses the way ahead for the brand

Dr Manfred Braunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East & Africa FZE 7

The Taycan launched in the UAE in the midst of the pandemic. What has been the response so far?
We’ve seen very positive first feedback from customers and enthusiasts demonstrated by a strong order bank. With its innovative design, the Taycan is a real eye catcher but even more so it is a Porsche, a true sports car, featuring high-end quality and comfort.

People adapt if they are convinced that a product meets their needs and expectations. Hence, following the recent launch of our first fully electric car, the Taycan, we are focusing extensively on providing test-drive opportunities. It’s the best way to showcase high-powered electric performance, instant torque, and multiple accelerations at full power.

What are some of the near- to long-term goals for Porsche’s electrification programme?
Our E-Performance programme is a vital pillar of our company strategy, in line with our positioning as an emotive sports car with a focus on dynamic driving, design, quality and sustainability. Our product plan unites the brand’s tradition with the future, with a trio of drive systems comprising emotive, petrol-driven cars, dynamic plug-in hybrids and innovative, electrically powered sports cars.

We remain true to our pioneering role with product offensives such as the expansion of the Taycan range, our first fully electric product offer, and the growing hybrid range with our new Panamera. In addition, we are focusing on the expansion of the charging infrastructure. We also recently announced our participation in a pilot project in Chile that is expected to yield the world’s first integrated, commercial, industrial-scale plant for making synthetic climate-neutral fuels (efuels).

Based on our defined plan in line with the right investment plan to back this up, Porsche will continue to be a trendsetter with a clear direction – the future.

Porsche increased its ownership share in Rimac a few months ago. What does it hope to achieve by way of that partnership and will that give rise to an electric Macan?
Two years ago, Porsche initiated a development partnership with Rimac, a Croatian-based organisation that develops and produces electromobility components. Our intent is to intensify our collaboration in the field of battery technology in line with our E-Performance programme.

And yes, our range of sustainable vehicles will grow. We have confirmed that the next generation of the Macan will include the first all-electric compact SUV from Porsche. It is due to roll off the assembly line in Leipzig (Germany), where a significant expansion of the production facility is underway.

What are some of the major hurdles that the company is facing in electrifying its fleet? Also, is the electric car infrastructure here in the region adequate to facilitate a greater adoption of EVs?
The UAE and the other GCC governments are doing a lot to increase sustainability and reduce CO2 emissions, especially by focusing on the charging infrastructure to make the use of battery-powered electric vehicles viable and encourage their sales by reducing owners’ range anxiety. Other governments are not yet that advanced and this is where automotive manufacturers need further support.

Our local investors are backing the drive to reduce CO2 emissions through our Porsche destination chargers to provide conveniently located charging points at popular locations, like hotels and malls.
It is important to note that most Taycan drivers can charge their car comfortably at home, thanks to the on-board AC charger with 11 kW using alternating current. And, with a range of up 463 km in the Taycan 4S, there is almost no difference to internal combustion vehicles with regards to everyday use.

Dr Manfred Braunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East & Africa FZE 7
“Following the lockdown in the second quarter, we had the best third quarter results over a five-year period”

Everybody is talking about EVs but we should not forget about hybrids. Do you see a future and why are they important?
Porsche has adapted its drive technologies to its core competencies: petrol-engine vehicles, hybrids and electric sports cars. There is no plan to electrify all of our models. For the 911, considerations include the development of a very sporty hybridisation known from motorsports. Already today, the fastest model in the Panamera and Cayenne range is the Turbo S E-Hybrid. Succeeding models will be designed with an even greater focus on performance as well as a longer electrical range of over 80 kilometres. Hybrid models remain important for the brand’s product line-up in the years to come.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on Porsche’s sales globally and here within the region?
Globally, Porsche had very robust demand in the first nine months of 2020, with only a 5 per cent lower result when compared to the same period in 2019. Supported by the updated product portfolio, we see a continued increase in new car orders.

Regionally, we recorded a 5 per cent growth in new car deliveries in the first quarter of 2020. Following the lockdown in the second quarter, which naturally affected our business, we had the best third quarter results over a five-year period. No doubt, Covid-19 has been difficult, but overall we have managed this challenging year very well, thanks to flexible business plans, fast support measures, creative ideas and the great support of our Porsche partners across the region.

What are your expansion and product introduction plans for key markets within the region?
We are looking forward to a busy 2021, with the continuation of the Taycan introduction in more markets, the arrival of the 911 Turbo, additions to the 718 range, the latest generation Panamera and much more.
Our focus is to finalise a range of new projects in our key markets, such as the new Porsche Centre Shuwaikh in Kuwait, a state-of-the-art Porsche Centre in Riyadh as well as the first Porsche Studio in India. Furthermore, there are also several ongoing service centre developments, especially in Saudi Arabia.

What are some of the lessons that luxury automakers must learn and remember from 2020 as they chart out their plans for this year?
A high degree of flexibility and an innovative approach across all areas of business is the only way forward. Manifesting a corporate culture where change is accepted and trusting flexible working systems is equally important. One should not forget that importers and customers are in the same situation. Hence, bestowing confidence in them is crucial to succeed. I firmly believe that relationships fostered during difficult times are stronger and will be remembered for a long time. This is why our top priority was to be close to our business partners through regular information exchange and proactive communication.

We have embraced the pandemic period as an opportunity for innovative communication measures. We launched online roundtables with our business partners and held our first virtual importer conference and training modules via live stream with interactive features. We also piloted virtual sales consultations for our customers – a new platform that may stay for years to come.

For me personally, it’s a definite question of state of mind: a challenge is not a threat, it’s an opportunity to progress.

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