Martin Limpert, managing director of Porsche Asia Pacific, shares his take on the luxury market and how the brand is working to strengthen its presence in the region.
You’ve been in the luxury business for quite a number of years. How has the market evolved, what has changed?
We’ve definitely seen changes. It doesn’t just apply to the automotive industry; the fashion industry has changed, and even our general perception of luxury lifestyle has changed. For example, we have more options in terms of luxury goods, that’s probably one of the biggest changes in the market. There’re more and new brands entering the market vying for a piece of the luxury pie in the segment, while existing brands try to secure a bigger footing by expanding their portfolios with more products targeting the well-heeled consumers. Moving beyond premium quality materials, companies are offering more personalization services and options to customize your vehicle. At Porsche, we want to offer the option for our customers to personalize his/her car. From colors to equipment options and accessories, this so-called “made-to-measure” service is becoming very popular in the automotive industry.
The word “luxury” gets tossed around quite frequently, and gets tagged on to practically every product and service. What’s your take on luxury?
I think the concept of luxury varies from one person to another. Personally, I think it’s the ability to express yourself, whether in the consumption of good and services, or doing what you like. It could be in the form of a reward. We’ve seen people who have achieved success reward themselves with things that they might not have indulged in previously, from the types of products and/or services they consume to embarking on a certain lifestyle. Luxury is also having the means to satisfy certain needs or desires.
Let’s talk about the Asia market, despite the slowing down of demand in this part of the world, particularly China, the numbers for Porsche remain optimistic. As a luxury brand expands, volume increases, and luxury goods become abundant. Is there such a thing as mass luxury?
That’s a very good question. If we look at the overall market, it’s estimated that 70-80 million cars are sold in the market worldwide. As for us, we have slightly below 200,000 cars last year. We are in the vicinity of 0.025 per cent of the overall market worldwide, and there’s potential for growth. Besides my take on luxury is about having the means to fulfill one’s desire. It doesn’t matter if you are at the point in life when you’ve just acquired your first Boxster or Macan, you are fulfilling something at that point in your life. Exclusivity is a part of the luxury equation. It’s not only defined by numbers but really by a lifestyle.
Even if a brand is at a level to achieve a certain volume, we have stepped up the experience with possibilities to personalize your vehicles. For example, you can choose to match the color of your car to that of your wife’s nails or choose the stitching inside your Macan. You can also splurge a little and opt for a bigger turbo engine with an output of 400hp. There are actually no limits for exclusivity even on the entry models, or any of the Porsche products.
The Volkswagen Group is a dominant player in the automotive industry, each of the brands under the group’s portfolio have expanded its offering to fill certain niches in the market. What’s your strategy to strengthen the brand’s standing in the market?
Porsche has a long history and success building luxury sports cars. Our approach is to offer the sportiest car in whatever segment we are present. It doesn’t matter if it’s the two-door rear-engine segment with the 911, the two-door mid-engine segment with the Boxster Cayman, or even our smaller SUVs like the Macan. This is in our genetic code – we are born on the racetrack. This is part of our strategy. We have the expertise, technology, and know-how to prove that you can have “the cake and eat it”. Performance and sustainability doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive. The Porsche 919 Hybrid is a case in point. We are able to transfer the knowledge that we gain on the racetrack into our production cars across all models.
Our philosophy at Porsche is “Car for life, Customer for life”, so whenever somebody steps into the world of Porsche as a customer, let’s just say we want to keep them for life. Say, someone new to the brand enters into the Porsche world with a Boxster, as he moves up in his career, and decides to reward himself, we have the Boxster S waiting, followed by the 911, etc. This is how we keep up with them and keep them for a very long period of time. In a different scenario, someone – like a young, urban professional, or a young married couple – can pick our entry model Macan as their first luxury SUV. It is a vehicle that would fit their lifestyle – weekend golfing, hiking, or biking. But as their families grow with kids, they can upgrade to a Cayenne. And when their kids grow up, they might want to go back to a nice luxury sedan like the Panamera. It’s a long-term plan, and we are ready for it.
This article was originally published in Men’s Folio Magazine April 2016