As someone who spent the early part of his career in marketing roles with both Mercedes-Benz France and Daimler AG before transitioning into senior management, Porsche Cars Canada president and CEO Marc Ouayoun knows a thing or two about the importance of brand.
And when it comes to the high-performance auto segment, there are few brands in the world more revered and respected than Porsche. For Ouayoun, who arrived in Canada from his native France on Jan. 1, 2018, one of the key business challenges is maintaining Porsche’s reputation for automotive excellence while at the same time increasing its cachet among younger and more diverse audience segments.
Which is not to suggest the Porsche brand is struggling in Canada. The company has posted sales growth in 93 consecutive months, with its 2019 sales rising 1.4% to 9,025 units (the first time it has cracked the 9,000 mark in Canada). The automotive industry as a whole fell by 3.6%.
Canada is Porsche’s fifth largest market globally, behind China, U.S., Germany and the United Kingdom. Last year, the company sold 1.5 times as many cars in Canada than it did in France, which has twice the population.
“The Canadian market is very important for us,” says Ouayoun. “The brand is developing very strongly in Canada. We have an excellent dealer network and the brand is attracting a lot of new customers.”
The company’s iconic 911 model sold an all-time high 1,414 units, but Ouayoun says that the company’s diversified line-up—which has grown to include an SUV, a full-size luxury car, and its first electric-vehicle—will continue to drive it into what he calls a “new era.”
Some of its latter product introductions have upset Porsche purists, who regard the company first and foremost as a maker of high-end sports cars. Ouayoun, not surprisingly, doesn’t share that sentiment. “It’s a good product line-up and very attractive,” he says.
And it’s a lineup that will be increasingly shaped by environmental concerns. Porsche’s first electric vehicle (EV), the Taycan—described by multiple media outlets as a “Tesla killer”—made its worldwide debut last fall in a series of coordinated events (including in Niagara Falls, Ont.).
Porsche has reportedly invested about €6 billion on electric/hybrid technology, and Ouayoun says that fully electric or hybrid vehicles will represent more than half of its portfolio by 2025.
The key, he says, is balancing consumer appetite for EVs with a continued affection for its gas-powered vehicles—which, with their throaty acceleration, are the very embodiment of a brand steeped in racing history.
“Electric is obviously in our future, but we want to remain flexible because demand will vary from market to market,” says Ouayoun. Porsche’s goal, he says, is to develop its products along three key pillars: Electric, hybrid and traditional cars that are “extremely attractive” to its customers.
In North America, at least, demand for its new products is high: According to a report on the auto site Wheels.ca last year, the 10,000 Taycans Porsche allocated for this market have already been snapped up.
The Taycan is also getting a major marketing push from Porsche that includes the car company’s first Super Bowl ad since 1997.
“The Super Bowl is famous as a TV event far beyond North America and it represents a perfect platform to reach new fans,” said Porsche’s director of marketing communications Oliver Hoffmann in release announcing the company’s return to one of the world’s biggest sports events. “Our commercial links many elements that make up Porsche: sportiness, emotion, and also a touch of humour, something that is typical for how we communicate in general.”
The spot, called “The Heist,” was shot in Germany last year and features an assortment of racing cars, road vehicles and “treasures” from the Porsche Museum collection. While the Taycan is the star, other cars featured in the ad include the legendary 917 K racing car, the 918 Spyder hybrid super sports car and the 911.
Porsche does not plan to run the ad in CTV’s Super Bowl telecast, which is not surprising. It largely eschews traditional mass media plays in favour of tightly targeted messaging and dealer activities such as the Cup Challenge Canada race series, the annual Porsche Golf Cup and last year’s Porsche Classic Restoration Competition.
“We created lots of stories across Canada of Porsche customers recreating nice cars like the 356 or 911,” says Ouayoun of restoration competition. “It’s been a big success, with lots of social media content relating to core values of the brand.” Porsche’s Canadian agencies are Camp Jefferson for creative, PHD Canada for media and Conversation Agency for PR.
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2019 Porsche Canada’s Restoration Competition 1st Place Winner. 1964 Porsche 356 C It was delivered in a couple of boxes and a rusted-out body, and after over 1800 hours of work, a masterpiece is revealed. Now it’s time to defend our title! 2020 Porsche Restoration Competition 1960 Porsche 356 Cabriolet This beauty was delivered with bungee cords holding it together. It comes with an original hardtop, engine and transmission. Nine months is a very short amount of time for the team, lead by Wes Moskwa, to completely restore this old girl back to her original state. But the team is up for the challenge. And in the words of Vaughn Wyant, “It’s going to be magnificent.” Make sure to follow along with the competition @porschecentresk and with the hashtags: #PortraitofLouise #porsche #porscheclassic #PorscheClassicCompetition #Porscheoftheprairies #porschepassionproject
Brand stewardship is of paramount importance to Ouayoun, who says that the company’s Canadian operations are “strictly following” the guidelines laid out by the parent company. “When we look at our communication, we try to be very clear on what we ought to do to secure the brand values.,” he says.
But at the same time, Porsche is also keen to reach new consumer segments, with South Asian and Chinese Canadians representing a key area of focus. “It’s a target group that is very loyal and very fascinated by our brand,” Ouayoun explains.
— Porsche Canada (@PorscheCanada) January 25, 2020
The company is also experimenting with new revenue models based on changing consumer habits. That includes programs like Porsche Passport, a subscription-based product that caters to younger drivers who may want the cachet and thrill of a Porsche without the burden of ownership (insurance, maintenance, etc.) that comes with it.
Currently available through the Toronto-area dealer Pfaff, the Porsche Passport is available in two tiers: $3,200 a month for the “Launch” membership, with includes access to the automaker’s 718, Macan and Cayenne models, and $4,200 a month for the “Accelerate” package that adds the 911 and Panamera.
“[Subscribers] can simply say ‘Okay tomorrow I want to have the Carrera and keep it for two weeks’ and then when summer is coming you want to switch to a Boxster,” explains Ouayoun. “You just use your app, and someone brings your car. You just do the subscription paperwork at the beginning, and that’s it.”
Still, at a base price of more than $3,000 a month, Passport isn’t exactly bringing Porsche to the masses. Ouayoun is anticipating about 40 to 45 sign-ups, describing it as an experiment aimed at addressing changing consumer habits.
“We know that car ownership will remain in the future, but if we want to attract younger target groups and be really future ready, we need those sorts of products… for people who ultimately might not want to buy a car,” he says. “Younger people might be attracted to the brand and might want to have a flexible experience.”
Porsche Passport isn’t generally intended to be a long-term solution for Porsche ownership, however. A 2017 pilot in Atlanta found that the average subscription lasted four months, with users swapping models an average of 2.5 times per month. Regardless of technological advances, Ouayoun says, the imperative is that future entries in the Porsche portfolio—whether they’re fuelled by fossil fuels or electricity—retain well-established brand values.
“[They must] drive like a Porsche, smell like a Porsche and feel like a Porsche,” he says. “We are quite sure that creating products that are highly emotional, that drive so well, we can succeed in converting our customers to electric cars in the near future.”
Marc Ouayoun on his favourite Porsche(s) and why.
“Usually I say my favourite Porsche is the one I will launch next,” he says. “It’s exactly the same as asking a parent ‘Who’s your favourite child?’ If you were to ask a [Porsche] engineer, he would say it’s too difficult to give a clear preference.”
Ouayoun though, doesn’t opt for the easy out. Instead, he divides his choices into past, present and future.
His past choice is the Porsche 356 A, the company’s first production model, produced between 1948 and 1965. “It’s the most puristic design of this model,” he says. “All of Porsche is there: The exterior design, the quality, the agility, the efficiency, the sportiness.”
Next up is a current model, the Macan GTS. “It’s a great, great car. I try to drive it as much as possible. It’s a perfect combination of agility [in] a compact SUV, and it’s so good to drive.” The future is the Taycan EV. “It’s going to be an incredible experience for consumers,” he says.