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Porsche outlines its comprehensive strategy for the Middle East

Porsche outlines its comprehensive strategy for the Middle East

Porsche saw strong performance in the Middle East in 2021, backed by new models and local collaborations. Dr Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa, reveals the brand’s mobility strategy going forward

Dr Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE

We are two years into the pandemic now. What have been some of the biggest learnings from the pandemic for you personally as a luxury car industry CEO and business leader? Has anything changed for the long-term?
During the height of the pandemic, we reviewed our processes and reassessed how we engage with our partners, customers and brand enthusiasts. We embraced this period as an opportunity for innovative communication measures that have been incorporated into our business for the long term, such as virtual sales consultations that customers can easily access through our website, virtual roundtables with our partners, and online training modules. Needless to say, these communication measures will not replace face-to-face meetings, but enhance our relationships with internal and external stakeholders as well as efficiencies.

We saw the potential to enrich the interaction with our community, focusing on exciting and attractive new formats, such as our high-speed drone video Drive2Extremes to launch the all-electric Taycan Cross Turismo. In 2021, we also focused on face-to-face interactions and looked at new and innovative ways to engage with our customers and brand enthusiasts. Our partnership with DRVN Coffee is a good example. It allows us to showcase some of our most exciting cars, including rare classics and concept cars, in a unique way. Then of course we celebrated a huge success with our first ever ‘Icons of Porsche’ festival, where we brought the community together to share their passion.

From a business perspective, we learned that a high degree of flexibility and an innovative approach across all areas of business is the only way forward. At our organisation, change is welcome, and innovations are desired.

What was the underlying motive of the Icons of Porsche event held at the Dubai Design District in November? What were some of its biggest highlights?
We know that the region is home to a variety of rare and unique classic Porsches, and our plan was to bring them together with the local community in an event focused on car culture in a family-friendly environment. Our idea was to pilot a new concept and do what we do best: showcase our unique brand heritage in an attractive way. We were amazed by the results: ‘Icons of Porsche’ attracted over 7,000 attendees and over 1,000 Porsche cars, not only from the UAE but also from the rest of the Middle East.

We are proud to say it was the largest gathering of legendary vehicles from the Porsche Museum outside of Germany in 2021. In addition, visitors had the chance to see visionary design studies from the Porsche Unseen series on display for
the first time at a public event outside of Germany. I was personally grateful to be able to meet hundreds of classic car owners from across the GCC who made the journey to participate in our event, displayed their own beloved icons at the festival and participated in Porsche parades. We plan to make this an annual event moving forward.

Will this Porsche festival, or something along similar lines, be replicated in other markets under your watch: for example in Saudi Arabia or Qatar?
Our objective is to find new and exciting ways to engage with our customers, and we plan to work with our local partners in each market to explore all possible options to do that. The regional festival will always be our landmark event, but I have high hopes that we will find other new and attractive platforms to connect with our fans and customers, both current and future, at a local level. ‘Icons of Porsche’ has shown us that we are on the right track, that the brand is strong and that people are interested in joining the Porsche family, whether they own a car or not.

Tell us about the partnership with DRVN Coffee. What are the future plans for that collaboration?
We have partnered with DRVN Coffee to bring the brand closer to the public, and to engage with the community in a casual and entertaining format. While enjoying time with family and friends, guests can enjoy some of Porsche’s most exciting classic models and concept cars.

For the past couple of months, café visitors and motoring enthusiasts have been able to enjoy iconic vehicles from the Porsche Museum including the Porsche 935/78 ‘Moby Dick’, the Porsche 356 ‘No. 1’ show car, a rare Porsche 959, in addition to one-off concept cars like the Porsche 919 Street and the Porsche Vision Spyder.

We chose DRVN Coffee because it is a stylish urban space that matches Porsche’s brand identity well. In addition, its proprietors share an intense passion for the automotive world, making them the ideal partners for an activation like this. Porsche is a brand that invokes passion, and we see that passion manifested in the moments where customers, enthusiasts and their families can experience the brand together on different levels.

Why are these types of partnerships important to you?
For the past seven decades, Porsche has created some of the world’s most iconic automobiles that represent historical turning points in design, engineering, and racing prowess. Our heritage and unwavering commitment to our roots matched with the best technology for the perfect sports cars of tomorrow – that is what makes our brand unique and strong. We are looking at ways to bring this passion to this part of the world, far away from Porsche’s magnificent Museum or factory. Partnerships with like-minded brands as well as new marketing ideas and retail concepts allow us to come even closer to our audience and connect with them in new and exciting ways.

Can you give us a business overview of sales and volume of Porsche’s Middle East business?
Despite many global challenges since early 2020, we have continuously enhanced our business performance indicators in various ways and are able to enjoy a strong outlook for 2022.

In 2021, we enjoyed our best first half-year result in the past five years with a growth of 46 per cent, with the highest first half order intake in five years, and the largest order bank in six years.

From Q1 to Q3 of 2021, we delivered more than 5,300 new cars, representing an increase of almost 10 per cent over the previous year. We have seen very strong demand, with orders up by 40 per cent compared to 2020 and the number of vehicles ordered more than doubling during the past 12 months.

In the Middle East, a region well-known for its passion for SUVs, the Macan has been our biggest seller, accounting for
35 per cent of all sales, with the Cayenne following closely with 33 per cent. But also, the two-door sports cars were in high demand; every fifth Porsche sold is a 911 or 718, equating to a 20 per cent model share.

High-performance specifications are especially popular, with the 911 GT models representing over a third of all 911 orders. The new 718 Cayman GT4 RS has also proved to be highly popular since it was revealed at the LA Auto Show in November 2021. Our brand is strong in all markets, with our top three fastest growing markets being Saudi Arabia, India and Morocco.

You introduced the Taycan about a year ago. What are some of the plans for other electric models to be brought to the Middle East?
Porsche is continuously pursuing and investing in sustainable mobility. The Taycan range is currently being expanded with the Cross Turismo variant. Our plans do not stop here. In 2022, we will also launch the Taycan GTS, the first representative of the model series to hit the 500-km mark with a driving range of up to 504 km. The next fully electric model to be introduced will be the Porsche Macan, set to launch in 2023.

This will be followed by a strong electrification programme, which will see around 50 per cent of all Porsche vehicles sold being an electric or hybrid drive by 2025, with at least 80 per cent set to be electrified by 2030.

Over the next five years, Porsche will invest around EUR15bn in electric mobility, sustainable production and digital transformation, with an aim to be fully carbon neutral in products and operations by 2030.

However, although Porsche will become more electric, it will not be entirely so. As a historic favourite and an iconic model for the brand since its earliest days, the Porsche 911 is not planned to be offered as an all-electric drive.

Combustion engines still have a lot of potential when it comes to meeting stricter environmental regulations, and Porsche is developing its product lines along the three pillars of fuel-efficient combustion engines, low-emission hybrid models and all-electric vehicles.

What sort of an appetite for EVs are you witnessing in the region?
We’ve seen very positive first feedback from customers and enthusiasts – demonstrated by a strong order bank for the Taycan. In the UAE, where the EV charging infrastructure is already widespread and growing, we recorded an almost 20 per cent model share. This demonstrates that the market is receptive to EV models and appreciates the performance and efficiency they can offer.

People are willing to adapt their desires if they are convinced that a new product meets their needs and expectations. Therefore, following the initial Taycan launch phase, we focused on providing extensive test-drive opportunities. It’s the best way to showcase the incredible performance, instant torque, and rapid, linear acceleration at full power that can be offered by our high-performance all-electric Taycan.

What are the most pressing challenges that are hindering the rollout of EVs both globally and also specifically here within the region?
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 such as 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 or 22 kW using alternating current. And, with a range of up 484km in the Taycan, there is almost no difference to internal combustion vehicles with regards to everyday use.

Can you tell us about your sports initiatives within the region? What are your plans for motorsport within the region? Also, are you looking to branch out into additional categories (E-sports, UFC, etc.)?
Porsche is a brand that was born on the racetrack. Therefore, since 1948, sport is an important part of our DNA. As a sports car brand with over 70 years of legacy in motorsport, we are passionate about competing and winning. Our engagement across the globe allows us to test technologies on track before road use. Our presence and success in Formula E with electrically powered racing cars, for example, lays the foundation for future mobility solutions.

On a regional level, we are focusing on expanding the Sprint Challenge Middle East by developing a new concept to enhance the attractiveness of motorsport to our fans and customers. In addition to developing regional race drivers and giving them a platform to compete with international talent, we also need to ensure that this gets translated into opportunities for the wider community. We have plans for 2022.

What are some of the biggest milestones you want to achieve in 2022?
From a product perspective, we start the year with the introduction of the latest Macan, our best-selling model in this region. During the second quarter, we will launch the 718 Cayman GT4 RS and expand the Taycan range with our
Taycan GTS.

On the business side, we will focus on consulting with Porsche India to support the set-up of four new centres set to open in the first half of 2022 and launching several new initiatives to further enhance brand awareness across the sub-continent. Other network expansion plans include locations in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

We will also see a focus on new retail formats and ways to engage with audiences closer to locations where they spend their leisure time. A good example is Porsche Centre Egypt’s moving Porsche Now Pop-up store that is currently in El Gouna (Hurghada region).

And finally, we are already working on plans for the second instalment of our regional event ‘Icons of Porsche’ which is set to be even better and bigger than the first version.

What plans does Porsche have for Saudi Arabia, a market that is booming and has showcased ambitious projects such as the Red Sea, Oxagon and NEOM wherein it wants to redefine the traditional ideas of mobility?
Saudi Arabia is one of our fastest growing markets with immense potential. The government’s investment in infrastructure, and legal changes such as enabling women to drive, have created new opportunities for car manufacturers. Our partner in the kingdom, Samaco Automotive, is established as one of the leading importers and is heavily investing in facility upgrades across the country. The recently opened showroom in Riyadh is the first in the Middle East to showcase the new corporate architecture and features an integrated Porsche Design Shop-In-Shop.

Together with our importer, we are constantly working on developing new ways to engage with our customers in the kingdom and creating opportunities to meet new ones. During recent months, the local team has implemented new sales and service offers and modernised processes by expanding the online offering, including a pilot to extend the vehicle warranty fully online.

With a clear roadmap ahead, current results show we are moving in the right direction: third quarter results of 2021 showed an increase in new car deliveries of 26 per cent compared to the previous year.

What are some of the objective success metrics that you aim for Porsche Middle East to achieve in 2022?
We already have fantastic success to build on in the near future. From a business perspective, we are looking positively towards 2022. By the end of Q3-2021, we recorded our highest ever order intake since 2015 and the largest order bank since 2013. The new Macan and Cayenne are in high demand, while the 911 line-up continues to be popular, especially the GT models which account for one third of all 911 orders in the region. We have also been delighted to see strong interest in the new 718 Cayman GT4 RS, which went on sale mid-November.

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