Last week Eurocars Ltd., a subsidiary of IWS Holdings, and the official agent for Porsche cars in Sri Lanka, officially launched the 718 Boxster in Sri Lanka. With it they announced a first-of-its-kind Porsche driving experience in the country, giving potential and current clientele the opportunity to test drive nine of Porsche’s top-of-the-line models (not available in Sri Lanka at present) including the all-new Boxster.
The driving experience is being conducted over the course of two weekends – the first was on 18 and 19 September and the second will be on 8 and 9 October – with Eurocars Ltd. Chairman Arthur Senanayake suggesting that more might be forthcoming in the future depending on how well they are received.
Among the models available for testing is Porsche’s crown jewel, the 911 Turbo; retailing at over Rs. 100 million, Senanayake concedes that it is extremely unlikely such a vehicle will make its way into the country anytime soon unless taxes are lowered. However he believes offering the opportunity for a select few individuals to get behind the wheel of such an iconic sports car strikes at the heart of Porsche’s end game.
“Everyone who gets an opportunity to drive these cars will get a true Porsche experience. They will see what a sports car really means, how it handles; we believe that when you drive these cars it’ll provide the stepping stone to convert from whatever other brand to Porsche,” explains Senanayake.
“The Porsche is the all-day sports car, which expresses a certain way of life,” adds Managing Director of Porsche Asia Pacific Martin Limpert.
Indeed, for Porsche, it’s not about selling a car, it’s about selling an ideal. Limpert and Senanayake sat down with Daily FT to discuss in greater detail their aspirations and expectations for the Porsche brand in Sri Lanka, Porsche’s goals for the region going forward, and what it means to be a part of the Porsche family.
Following are excerpts:
By Madushka Balasuriya
Q: Arthur, with the launch of the new range what are your sales expectations?
Arthur Senanayake: It’s quite promising now because we have a lower CC cars, below 2000 – earlier it was 3000 and above such as the 911 – and this gives us a better horizon and prospects are getting better. We’re also getting the new Cayman, a few Caymans are coming in, new Boxsters are coming in. We have about 10-15 prospective customers we hope to close soon. So we will be seeing a lot of Boxsters. Sports cars are there but of course the Cayman is our bread and butter, they’re moving well.
Q: As far as your quota goes, how many cars are you bringing down this year?
AS: This year we have approximately about 45-50 cars and we have also asked for extra because all of a sudden there’s been a surge in demand for the Boxsters.
Q: Martin, you’ve been in your role since March 2014. How would you rate Porsche’s growth in the region in your tenure so far?
Martin Limpert: We are still experiencing a great success story within the Porsche world, sales volumes grew worldwide, but also in the Asia Pacific region. Of course in the Asia Pacific region we launched as of April 2014 the Macan, which is clearly one of the big contributors to the sales units in the region. But at the end sales volume is rather an effect or a result of our work in the market. If we do our work properly, if we excite our customers in the purchasing phase and in the ownership phase so that they buy cars again from us, then we did the right job. We’re not just driven by the sales numbers, it’s rather customer satisfaction and customer excitement. And then as we can see the sales numbers are growing as a result of our efforts.
Q: If sales volume is not your primary focus, how would you in the context of the Asia Pacific region, and also Sri Lanka, define success?
ML: On a worldwide or regional scale, generally we say our vision is to be the manufacturer of the most exclusive sports cars or most successful manufacturer of exclusive sports cars. This is our vision, this is what we’re looking to do. Also in our strategy we have defined brand values and we want our customers to understand the brand and be excited by the brand. If you look at what is the main purchasing argument for buying a Porsche, from our customer studies, it’s the brand. So yes we have to be an innovative leader, we have to be a pioneer in some areas, we have to have sustainable technologies, but at the end this pays into the brand image which is the most important buying argument for our customers.
How do we measure it, besides the brand excitement? Very important for us is customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, so we study and measure the satisfaction levels of our customers because another principle we follow is ‘car for life, customer for life’. So whatever car that we produce, we want to accompany that car for the rest of its life – as of today more than two-thirds of Porsches ever built are still on the road – and the other point is customer for life, so once we have a customer as a member of the Porsche family, we want to keep that customer as a member of the Porsche family.
It can start with a young entrepreneur, or someone who finished studies and is working hard in his first three to four years, and finally says ‘I’m going to buy a Boxster as an entry model into the Porsche world’. From then on we want to continue the life with this customer; when he gets married, when he gets the first kid maybe as an addition he gets a Macan, then maybe the next step growing up he will go for the Panamera, then maybe the Cayenne and the 911, so that he has something for the family and for himself. This is the principle – customer satisfaction and brand excitement I would say are the two most important criteria, but yes, I would say we also measure our success in terms of profitability and in terms of sales production volumes.
Q: In an emerging market such as Sri Lanka’s, what is the strategy in place to entice customers to spend that little bit extra on a Porsche?
ML: We offer and sell premium products, this is clear. In order to be able to afford a premium product you have to pay a certain mark-up on the price, of course. At the same time it’s not that Porsche is not affordable. For us it’s very important that we start with the branding very early. If you ask – at least in Western Europe – a six-year-old boy to draw a sports car most probably he will draw you the shape of a 911, so this is where it starts with the brand excitement. And then they have something to aspire for, to dream for, and then at one point in time when they finally can afford a sports car, if we did a good job then they will go for the Porsche because that’s the car they have been dreaming off all the time.
In the portfolio of Porsche there is also a big difference in price between a Macan R4 and a 911 Turbo S. But the Macan is still a Porsche. The key cradle is we want to offer the sportiest car in the segment, we want to be premium, we want to be something aspirational that people aim for, but also we have clearly defined brand values in our strategy: One pair is exclusivity and social acceptance. While being exclusive, at the same time, we want people to lift the thumb when the car drives by and not any other finger! That’s the idea of social acceptance where even if you cannot afford to buy a Porsche you still like the brand and the car.
AS: Yes, I think what’s important is the brand image. What people perceive themselves to be driving – success – and of course safety. Porsche is always connected with an image of success. Many people who are going in for this car, this image, they want to show that they are successful. It’s an emerging market here, we have a lot of new rich coming in, a lot of Sri Lankans who were abroad they’re coming back to the country. They have seen Porsche in foreign countries, and they have seen who drives those cars – it’s someone who is successful. The Porsche brand is very important, that is one reason why people buy it.
On the other hand, if you see the Porsche brand at an affordable price – which is what you see with the Macan, the Boxster and the Cayman – these are very affordable cars compared to other brands. Even when you see the Toyota Prado, someone will buy a Prado because of its size, but if it’s a sports car the father will buy the Prado, the son will buy a Macan. We see more of that happening now.
Q: Going forward what is Porsche planning in terms of sustainability?
ML: Generally there are three big trends all across the industry at present: Connectivity, digitalisation and electrification. Of course we want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to all of these big trends, while still keeping the genetic code of Porsche – being born on the racetrack, being the purest sports car, I mean this is always the key cradle for us. We built the sportiest car in the segment but we have to make sure we’re in the driver’s seat on those areas that are of relevance for us.
Talking about sustainability, for us it’s more about – and this is also a part of our principle – Porsche intelligent performance. We don’t just strive for the biggest or highest torque numbers or the biggest horsepower numbers or just the biggest values per se. We want to have the most intelligent solution. And again I think the proof we gave with the 919 Hybrid in Le Mans (24 hour race), we won there for the second consecutive year. We also won it for the 18th time overall, no other manufacturer has won Le Mans in the highest class so often as us. For us this is the best racing series where we can convey the learning and the technology from the racing cars into serious production cars. Be it the battery technology from the 919 Hybrid, be it the electric drive systems, be it the downsized engines, the turbo charger technologies, the cooling systems, the chassis systems, there are a lot of things that we bring in from the racetrack into our serious production cars.
And the other point next to sustainability is the future-readiness, we don’t just downsize or go into electrification in order to keep up with the emissions standards, for us this is the next step in the goal of even smarter performance in the future. The combination that we have now in the hybrid vehicles of petrol engines together with electric components brings in again the best of both worlds, you have the sustainable performance of the petrol car but you have the immediate torque of the electric vehicles with the low consumption.
Q: Your final thoughts of Porsche in Sri Lanka?
ML: I’m proud that Porsche is in Sri Lanka, which is still a young, growing market with a kind of uncertainty about it over which direction it’s going to develop. Rather, the direction is clear but the speed is not clear. And Porsche being here with Arthur’s team for more than 20 years gives me pride and I just want to address everybody: Go to our authorised importer of sports cars in Sri Lanka, book a test drive, get ignited with the Porsche fascination and rest assured that you get the best service and ownership experience that you can have here in Sri Lanka with our authorised partners.
Pix courtesy Eurocars