This year, Porsche Canada named Marc Ouayoun as its new president and CEO. Ouayoun, who comes directly from his previous post as managing director of Porsche France, brings his extensive automotive business management experience to spearhead the company’s continued growth in Canada — it sold an unprecedented 7,061 sports cars in the Great White North in 2016 — and pave the way forward. We sat down with him at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto — where the German auto giant presented their “70 Years of the Porsche Sports Car” exhibit — to chat about the brand’s iconic history, as well as what to expect from it in the near and far future.
As you are the president and CEO of Porsche Canada, I can’t not ask you what you currently drive.
I’m currently driving the Macan GTS, but I like to change models regularly. So before I drove the Panamera and I will certainly drive a 911 during the summertime. But for me, the Macan GTS is perfect; it’s an SUV that drives like a sports car. It’s one of my favourites.
Before coming to Toronto, where were you?
I was the managing director of Porsche in France, where I worked for the last 12 years, so a long time. This brand is just so fascinating and has changed so much over the last 10 years that time goes by very quickly. And then I had the opportunity to change environments and Porsche gave me this wonderful opportunity to go to one of the fastest growing markets in the world for us, and also a very car fun market. So I immediately said yes because in France, Canada has a very good image, and I have to say, the first weeks here have been fantastic. Very exciting, very welcoming people, and a lot of passion for the brand. I really enjoy being here.
I’ll bet that, depending on where you’re coming from in France, you’ve found the Macan indispensable for handling our Canadian winters.
Yeah, for sure! Since January, we’ve had quite a lot of snow and I’m not used to that because in France it snows maybe once or twice a year. But the Macan, with these winter tires, is a weapon. I also went to Montreal and it drives so well on the snow; it’s a car that has huge daily drivability. It’s incredible. And the Macan is very successful; last year we sold more than 3,700 Macans, which is plus 35 per cent compared to the year before, so it’s the bestseller of Porsche in Canada at the moment.
You can see why!
The compact luxury SUV is the fastest growing market in Canada, and the Macan is obviously one of the stars of this segment.
Here we’re celebrating the 70-year history of Porsche, but in terms of the future, what do you think transportation, even in general, will look like?
Of course, we are a manufacturer of exclusive sports cars, so we do not represent the mobility of everyday for many people, but what is really stunning with Porsche is that it’s the only sports car that you can drive on snow, on ice, that you can use to bring your children to school, and you can use on the race track. And I think this combination between exclusivity and everyday usability is unique in the market, so maybe that’s the first thing I can tell you: even in the future, when the car market will change, there will always be a place for Porsche. Then, what is important for us, is to understand where the car market is going, and to offer the sports cars of the future. So it’s important to show the brand’s past, but also the future. The future is electric for us. It goes very well with the brand because cars have a low centre of gravity, a lot of instant torque, we can play a lot with the electronics to have a better driveability in the cars, and they accelerate very fast. So for us, it’s completely in line with the brand DNA to have electric cars in the future. Of course, we will continue to sell commercial fuel engine cars in the future, but that depends really on the evolution of the customer expectation; it also depends on the legal and political aspect, but we are ready to produce a car that drives like a Porsche, but is electric.
What is one project you personally would love to work on?
There is one project that is already well advanced: it’s the Mission E project, and we in Canada are also working on the charging effects, and also the customer experience that this car will bring. So, for me, it’s very exciting to work with the team here on these subjects, and it’s also exciting to follow the project that the engineers are preparing because this is really a revolution for us. I mean, the Mission E is the first full electric vehicle for Porsche. I will try the car in a few months from now because we already have prototypes, so it’s very concrete now because they could be here by the end of next year. It drives very well, and the battery will be able to go for more than 500 km; it will accelerate from 0-100 in a little bit more than 3 seconds, which is outstanding. And it will charge very, very fast because we have a new technology with over 800 volts, so 85 per cent of the battery will be charged in less than 15 minutes. That means 400 km charged in 15 minutes. And I think if we’re talking about the car of the future, autonomy and charging time are the key drivers, and I would say, last but not least, it needs to be a Porsche. And it will be a Porsche.
While everyone is talking about autonomy and autonomous vehicles, will there always still be a market for a sports car that someone wants to drive themselves?
Yes, of course. And I think that Porsche, like others, are looking today at what an autonomous vehicle is. We started with some features that were already equipped today, for example with the Panamera with traffic jam assist and these type of things, but the important thing is to say that you will always be able to drive a Porsche. But, if you are in a traffic jam in Toronto, what pleasure do you have when you are driving? If you are stuck in a traffic jam for 30 minutes to an hour, in this particular case, our customers, like all the other customers from other car makers, will enjoy having a car that will drive autonomously. But as soon as they can drive on a small road over the weekend, for example, they will also be very happy to take the steering wheel. And I can also tell you that autonomous driving will be very interesting on a race track, because the car can show you the ideal curve, the ideal pass on the race track and can show you how to drive perfectly as the pilot and then you can drive it yourself. So you can imagine autonomous driving, not only in a city traffic jam, but also on a race track showing you the best way to drive like a pilot.
That’s a good point, because everyone thinks of autonomous vehicles on the highway or in a traffic jam.
But why not have a program in your car that will drive on a lap on a race track that has been driven by Jacky Ickx or, I don’t know, one of the famous drivers from the factory, and show you the best way to drive and the best way to race?
And personally, Marc, what is one car you’ve always dreamt of owning?
Funnily, I will tell you, it is certainly a 356 A Model. For me it’s one of the purest cars, in that form follows function. And, for me, this 356 is certainly the most authentic, as you can see all the DNA of the brand in the car, and it drives wonderfully. I’ve driven it many times already and I would love to have this car in my collection.
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