Porsche production will stay in Germany, says sales chief

We Talk Sales, Segments, And Platforms With Bernhard Maier

At Porsche's recent opening of its new North American headquarters in Atlanta, we had a chance to chat with Bernhard Maier, the brand's head of sales and marketing. In our interview Maier opens up about Porsche's global growth, relationship with other Volkswagen Group products, and some of Porsche's future video. Read on for more.

Autoblog: You're on a smooth trajectory of increasing sales in the US. Do you think there's an ultimate cap for Porsche in terms of volume?

Bernhard Maier: If you look at the last couple of years, we have really seen a rapid growth in US, as we have seen in many other countries as well. Put that in perspective with our strategy for 2018. When we released that in early 2011, we said there are opportunities to grow for the brand in a number of ways. We are growing by entering new markets where we are not yet in, by taking part in the overall development of individual mobility, and in going in new segments where we are not yet in or that we were not yet in, such as the B SUV segment. And the Macan is, I think, a through-and-through success story.

Let's take the US. Out of 1,000 inhabitants compare that with 700 cars on the marketplace. If we go to China, there are only 70 cars out of 1,000 inhabitants. So this is a huge potential, which we still have for the entire automotive industry and, again, we are in China now for 14 years. We started off in 2001, selling 226 cars. Last year, we did more than 27,000 units.

With the economic recovery of the United States, we saw a tremendous comeback of the entire economy and also for the car industry. We took advantage of that as well in handling new segments like the Macan and in bringing more varieties in our already existing cars, so it gave us the opportunity to grow in America as well.

AB: In terms of the portfolio, and speaking of Macan, are there other segments that Porsche will be expanding? Are any segments off limits?

BM: We do have the number of ideas I can tell you, but we are not decided on what level [and] we are not talking about them. Let's look at our current model line-up. I think it's the most interesting one we've ever had in the history of the company. We do have a lot of derivatives in the 911 model lineup, we do have some derivatives in the Boxster and Cayman segment. There are some new ideas, which, as I've mentioned already, have not been decided yet.

AB: Right. Is there any potential that we'd see something from the group MQB platform?

BM: This is currently not in the planning. We take some components, of course, if they are really fitting to our cars. Infotainment devices, probably there is something we are able to bring into our cars as well if they are fitting to the entire content.

AB: In terms of five or ten years in the future, how do you maintain the identity of the brand and the segment when the technology is spreading throughout the market? The capabilities of technology and the content in the vehicles is becoming more similar - it's no longer just the domain of a luxury car. How does Porsche maintain the unique position that it's held throughout history?

BM: If you look at the position of the brand, we are truly the most successful manufacturer of exclusive sports cars. This is something we want to be in the future as well. For that, we have to look at brand-shaping criteria which are really important... and which are very closely linked to the brand such as exclusiveness or sportiness. There are some criteria and items, which are not that brand-shaping, where we can allow ourselves to be not first in the market, but probably a very fast follower. When you talk about the systems, devices, then of course, we will have state-of-the-art navigation systems and connectivity.

On the other hand, if you talk about assistance driving, this is something which is technologically probably not that far. From a cultural point-of-view and an ethical point-of-view, from a technology point-of-view, there are a lot of questions which are not yet answered. We think this will take its time, and we will see new elements step-by-step introduced in our cars as well - when we think that is appropriate and it is a real advantage for our customers. There is one thing that is for sure, everything that is really helping to make driving more safe, then this is something which could apply to our brand as well. But there will still be in the future some items you will never get delivered by an app and this is driving a Porsche yourself.

AB: In terms of hybridization versus downsizing and turbocharging, are those two separate directions of development?

BM: No, I don't think so, because downsizing is imperative to our brand. We always started in races with engines which had lower displacements, less cylinders than our competitors, but we always won the races. And after more than 30,000 victories in racing, I think performance is a value that speaks on its own. Efficiency and effectiveness is something that is very important to us and our engineers - the entire organization. And we think the needs of future mobility are closely linked with less consumption, especially when we talk about mega cities, and here our plug-in hybrid technology is contributing positively and is perfectly fitting to our brand. Once you have driven the 918 Spyder and see how complimentary the two systems - the internal combustion engine, by the way naturally aspirated, and two electro engines - are fitting perfectly together, and you feel this punch and have this seamless collaboration between the different systems, then you can understand what I'm talking about with that.

AB: Is it possible to see production outside of Germany for Porsche ever?

BM: This is actually not our plans. On the one hand, we stick to our roots and stabilizing our plants in Germany. And on the other hand we will remain a very exclusive manufacturer and to build a car outside Germany is, from today's perspective, not probably possible.

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