Andre Oosthuizen's introduction to the U.S. market came fast.
In September 2011, the South Africa native was running Porsche's marketing in the Middle East and Africa when he was asked to meet with Porsche U.S. sales chief Detlev von Platen at the Frankfurt auto show.
"Twelve days later, I was standing with two suitcases in Atlanta, left the family behind and embarked upon a completely new adventure," said Oosthuizen. His family later joined him in Atlanta, where Porsche has its U.S. headquarters.
Porsche's largest single market was a much different challenge than the collection of 20-plus countries Oosthuizen previously handled. He jumped in on his first tasks: Launching the redesigned 911, then the next-generation Boxster.
With Porsche courting customers for the 918 Spyder supercar, he helped craft a program to sweeten the prospect of putting down $200,000 deposits. Buyers of the 918 Spyder would qualify for a VIP concierge program giving them first opportunity to buy future limited-edition Porsches. The incentive increased deposits for the now-sold-out supercar, said Oosthuizen, who previously worked at Volvo and Ford.
Creative ideas like that are paramount, Oosthuizen said. Von Platen often points out Porsche's limited marketing budget despite the brand's high-end status. TV advertising is uncommon.
"If you look at ad spend figures and pitch us against other premium competitors, it's a drop in the ocean," Oosthuizen said.
But the limits give Porsche the chance to try smaller experiments, often aided by technology. For example, during last year's launch of the Macan crossover, Porsche installed a temporary LED wall in the parking garage of a Los Angeles shopping mall. When customers drove by, they could see themselves on the screen -- but riding in a Macan instead of their own vehicle.
And he sees a big opportunity coming with Porsche opening new customer experience centers, including test tracks, this year and next in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Said Oosthuizen: "We are taking our marketing engagement to a completely new level because we will be offering an institution where people can come and experience the brand, drive the cars."
-- Amy Wilson