Last year's launch of the Cayenne SUV changed the way Porsche dealers do business, bringing more volume and new customers.
But its launch wasn't without problems. Porsche initially didn't stock enough popular options such as air suspension, and dealers were forced to discount Cayennes that customers didn't want, says Robert Snodgrass Jr., owner of Brumos Porsche in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Porsche Board of Regents representative for the Southeast.
Snodgrass says Porsche quickly remedied the problem and the Cayenne is selling well.
The big challenge for 2004, he says, will be selling an aging Boxster, which won't be replaced until next year at the earliest. Dealers want marketing programs or variants to spice up Boxster sales.
Snodgrass spoke with Staff Reporter Diana T. Kurylko.
How was the past year for Porsche in the United States?
A challenge, in light of the fact that we have a new product line, the Cayenne. We have also been dealing with a Boxster that is a little older.
What's your hot product? What is the weak link?
The hot product for Porsche is now and will always be the Porsche 911 Carrera turbo and the Porsche turbo cabriolet. Our weak link is the Porsche Boxster. It is a significantly older model.
What new products are on the way?
We are excited about having the Cayenne six-cylinder, which will give us more price flexibility and allows us to compete with SUVs in that category like the Volkswagen Touareg.
Is the Cayenne a success?
Cayenne sales are getting better because the distribution has been adjusted. The content was also corrected. Initially we were unable to get enough options like the air suspension and wood interior, and that was a stumbling block when the Cayenne was launched. People knew they wanted those features. Now that there has been an adjustment, the Cayenne is catching on because we are selling what the public really wants.
How is the more expensive Cayenne turbo selling?
Any time Porsche builds anything with a turbo it is the most popular and most expensive. Demand is extremely high - anything that Porsche builds as turbocharged is highly desired, and that is the case with the Cayenne.
Were the incentives offered last summer and fall successful? Have they returned?
That is a touchy subject with Porsche. I would like to call them enticements. We have been able to entice a number of people to buy a Porsche. The enticements were very effective, and they were very welcome. We thank Peter Schwarzenbauer (CEO of Porsche Cars North America Inc.) for standing up for the American dealer body to make sure this would happen.
How do dealers manage the shift from selling primarily sports cars to primarily SUVs?
In our dealership, we have some salesmen more interested in the SUV. And perhaps there are old-line Porsche car salesmen better adapted to selling fast sports cars. Dealers have to adapt to a sales force that sells both. There is no way that a salesman can be a superb Cayenne and a 911 turbo salesman. The best way to tell is to see what the salesmen drive themselves.
Have dealers had to discount the Cayenne?
You have to do what you have to do to stay in business. There was discounting because of the content issue. The number of discounted Cayennes has been dramatically reduced. Porsche has done a wonderful job solving the problem, very un-German with the ability to switch horses in midstream.
The problem was the shortage of certain options?
Yes, the air suspension, wood trim and some of the luxury groups. Buyers wanted their vehicles trimmed out. They had a preconceived notion of what they wanted. They know the SUV is a little more palatable on the highway with air suspension than without it. They have read that is what they have to buy. When my salesman demonstrates the SUV without air suspension, they say, "Call us when you get it." Now we have it.
What is the top priority of the dealer council in 2004?
The top priority will be to ensure a fair and even flow of vehicles to all dealers in the U.S. and to ensure that the product content on the Cayenne is flexible and based on market demands. We are interested in a remedy or a program to help us with the Boxster.