The new CEO's top priority should be improving the brand's product mix, dealers say. With Porsche electrifying its model line, ensuring the right balance of internal combustion engine, hybrid and EV models will be critical for the brand's retail success.
Gruner's "most important function is to communicate to Germany the needs of the U.S. market," said DiStanislao, president of Porsche of the Main Line in suburban Philadelphia. He cited the example of the Macan compact crossover, which will receive an all-electric variant in the next couple of years.
"Macan is making up between 42 percent and 44 percent of sales," DiStanislao said. "So Porsche needs to make sure it is offered in an ICE variant as well as an electric variant."
Keeping Porsche dealership lots well-stocked should also be a priority for Gruner in his new role. Porsche's strength, DiStanislao said, has been "building one less car than the market demands." But the coronavirus pandemic has caused production slowdowns that have resulted in inventory shortages this year.
DiStanislao's dealership has a 12-day supply of inventory, compared with the typical 60-day supply.
"There is a tremendous shortage right now," he said. "We are out of Panameras right now, and we won't see them for four months. That's a problem."
Porsche's new CEO also must quickly understand the critical role that vehicle leasing plays in the U.S. luxury market, dealers said.
"We hope he has a short learning curve in undertsanding the importance of leasing in the U.S. and the budget that has to be attributed to that branch of the marketing of Porsche cars," DiStanislao said.
Zellmer, 53, an experienced salesman, is well-liked by the U.S. dealer network. Dave Zoloto, general manager at Porsche North Scottsdale in Arizona, described Zellmer as a "fast-track guy" and staunch advocate for U.S. dealers.
"Every Porsche dealer in the country has been doing much better than they were before he walked in," Zoloto said. "He's gotten additional allocations from Germany that we wouldn't have seen."
Prior to Zellmer's U.S. tour of duty, he nearly doubled Porsche sales as head of Germany. Since taking the top job in the U.S. in late 2015, Zellmer has steered Porsche toward a nearly 20 percent increase in sales. He oversaw several product introductions, including the current-generation Porsche 911 and the brand's first all-electric model, the Taycan.
He also is the architect of the Porsche vehicle subscription program.
"Klaus gelled exceedingly well with the dealer base," DiStanisalo said. "He understands the U.S. market."
The Porsche U.S. CEO job has become a career springboard for VW executives.
Zellmer's predecessor, Detlev von Platen, is Porsche's head of global sales. Peter Schwarz- enbauer moved from Porsche U.S. headquarters to Audi in 2008, where he became head of sales.
He later took on various board positions at BMW before retiring from the company last October.