Porsche North America Weathering the Downturn

“Something positive is happening” in the U.S. market, Porsche’s U.S. chief says.

NEW YORK – So far, Porsche Cars of North America Inc. has taken the U.S. market downturn in stride, and it even may be seeing a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, says its top executive.

“We’re happy to see that every one of our models is keeping its marketing share,” PCNA President and CEO Detlev von Platen says in an interview at the New York International Auto Show. “We’re doing better, or less bad, than our competitors.”

He’s especially pleased with sales of the Cayenne cross/utility vehicle. “We suffer a little more in Boxster and Cayman sales,” he says. But he’s confident a new generation of these models will spur a comeback for them.

Through the first quarter, PCNA’s U.S. sales are off 27.3% in a market down 38.3%. Cayenne sales have slipped 21.0%, while Porsche car sales trail year-ago by 32.1%.

Set to give PCNA a shot in the arm, at least image-wise, is the new ʼ10 911 GT3. Porsche AG will produce only a few hundred of the $112,200 sports cars for worldwide consumption, so while it serves as the brand’s halo car, the GT3 won’t have a big impact on U.S. volume when it hits the market this fall.

Meanwhile, Von Platen is optimistic the bottom has been reached in the current economic cycle.

“We can’t say the (sales) crisis is over,” he says. “But something positive is happening, and we’re seeing more floor traffic at our dealers. We remain cautiously optimistic.”

Von Platen is into his second year at the helm of PCNA, having come to the U.S. from Porsche’s operations in France. Despite a market that cratered just after he arrived, he says it was a good time to take the new post.

“You can gauge the strength of an organization in bad times,” he says.

The main difference between selling cars in the U.S. and France is the size of the market and the interaction between the auto maker and its dealers, von Platen says.

“My biggest shock is how huge this market is,” he says. “(And) in the U.S., we work more as partners with our dealers. It’s not a top down way of doing business.

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