Porsche Cars North America takes the highly unusual step of permitting dealers in two markets to build service-only facilities to augment their existing parts-and-service operations, instead of requiring them to add a full-on dealership, to meet an urgent need for more service capacity.
One of the two new service centers is in the Atlanta metro area. The other is in McKinney, TX, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Porsche Cars North America says they’re the only two such service-only locations in the country. Both are expected to open next year.
The Porsche brand needs more service capacity in those fast-growing markets. Allowing the service-only points makes it more economically efficient for the dealers and more convenient for customers, says Atlanta dealer Jimmy Ellis, co-owner of the new service center, to be called Porsche Service Center South Atlanta.
“It’s really an incredible opportunity,” says Ellis, president and CEO of the Jim Ellis Automotive Group. “It’s a huge convenience for clients on that end of the city.”
His Porsche dealership is Porsche Atlanta Perimeter. It’s one of only two Porsche franchises in the Atlanta market. The other is Hennessy Porsche North Atlanta. Both dealerships are in Atlanta’s northeast suburbs. Getting there from anywhere else in the metro area means negotiating Atlanta’s notorious traffic jams.
The two competing dealers, Ellis and Hennessy, are 50-50 partners in developing the new facility. The cost for the project was not disclosed.
The new center will be on 2.5 acres (1.1 ha) of land the dealers are leasing from Porsche Cars North America. In fact, it’s on the same campus as Porsche Cars North America headquarters and practically next door to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Joe Lawrence, chief operating officer and executive vice president for Porsche Cars North America, tells Wards the service center is the first phase of a three-year project that eventually will cover 33 acres (13 ha).
The project includes a parking garage for the use of Porsche headquarters; an expanded Porsche Classic Factory Restoration facility for Porsche aficionados; and an extension of a track that’s used for high-performance driving demonstrations for customers, part of the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta, Lawrence says.
Efficiency, Mature Brands, New Suburbs
Ellis says the airport location is important because after the pandemic, customers from all over the region will be able to drop off their cars for service when they take a trip and pick it up again when they get back. “We think that’s going to be utilized quite frequently by Porsche clients,” Ellis tells Wards.
Building a service-only facility is less costly than building a full sales-and-service dealership, but it’s still expensive, Ellis says.
As an alternative, his organization could have expanded service capacity at his existing dealership. But that wouldn’t make it any handier to customers on the other side of town, he says.
“I could have easily done that — well, not easily, and not inexpensively — but we felt like the need was on the south end” of the metro area, Ellis says.
The other new, service-only center, in Texas, belongs to a single dealership, Porsche Plano, which in turn belongs to AutoNation, according to Porsche Cars North America. The new center is expected open in first-quarter 2021.
Mike Marsh, general manager of Porsche Plano, says the new service center, with 28 bays, is about a 15-mile (24-km) drive from the showroom and is near major highways. “It's easy for people to drop off their cars, pick up a loaner car and take off again,” he says.
It’s logical that Porsche may need to realign service capacity to match where many of its customers now live, says Robert DiStanislao, a member of the Porsche Dealer Board of Regents and president of Porsche of the Main Line in Newtown Square, PA, outside Philadelphia.
Porsche currently has about 750,000 units in operation in the U.S., up 35% since 2015. From 2015 to the present, the U.S. dealership network increased by only three, to 192, the automaker says.
“Because Porsche is such an old brand, there are markets where they have experienced greater growth than the country overall,” such as the growing, wealthy suburbs outside Atlanta, DiStanislao says. “A lot of corporations have moved down there, and those people are buying Porsches.”