Porsche is unlike any other automotive company in the world. The German sports car specialists have been refining their iconic 911 for nearly 60 years now. But instead of coasting on the car’s continued success, the brand is forging an exciting new electric future for itself with the Taycan, its first all-electric car, and new events and experiences for customers to find fresh ways to stoke Porsche passion in a new generation of drivers. We spoke to Marc Ouayoun, president and chief executive of Porsche Cars Canada ahead of the 2020 Canadian International Autoshow.
Last year, Porsche stepped into uncharted waters with its first modern electric car, the Taycan. What’s the response been like?
The response in Canada has been among the best in the world, really, in terms of the number of depositors and order-holders we have. In Canada, there is a lot of awareness of necessary changes that need to be made when it comes to sustainability, and sustainability in luxury especially.
What was your first impression when you drove the Taycan?
We were around 25 guys from Porsche with all the engineers at a test track. The first impression was like, wow, it drives like a Porsche. You feel like you’re in a 911. You sit very low. The car isn’t anesthetized. You can feel the road. You really do feel that you and your car are one. We were all blown away.
Does this mean we’ll see an electric 911 soon?
You need to have a certain package. That’s why we started with SUVs and sedans as plug-in hybrids. For a pure sportscar like a 911, we are not yet at the right formula, because batteries are still heavy and the 911 is a very compact (light) car, but we are working on this issue.
Are younger customers more willing to accept an electric Porsche?
The proportion of young people saying, “Okay, I’m ready to pay more for an electric car because it’s sustainable, it’s zero emission,” is much higher than the boomer generation, which is normal. There is a change among generations.
Does that create, then, a kind of tension between your younger customers and the older ones, between moving forward and hanging onto the past?
At Porsche, we always want to be, on one hand, of course, not completely disrupting our customers, but on the other hand, showing them the way. Because, if you listen to our traditional customers, you would still be selling cars with a flat-six engines, air cooled with no fuel-injection. We would still be selling a car from the ’80s — and we love them, I’m driving an ‘80s Porsche on the weekend — but we also need to look forward.
There are so many sports cars out there. What keeps people coming back to Porsche?
I hear many times from some competitors that they’ve created a ‘Porsche killer.’ Most customers try it, and then come back to Porsche. You know why? Because at Porsche, you have more than a car, you have a community. It’s through all these Porsche clubs and the connection with Porsche Centres. They’re a real destination, and not only for servicing your car: You’re going there to get something for your kid – a small model toy – to drink a coffee, or to go for a nice Cars and Coffee meet over the weekend. This is a destination.
What kinds of events can Porsche owners enjoy here in Canada?
Every month there is something in Canada. I’m following it all on social media. They are inviting customers, for example, on the racetrack for a Cup Challenge race. Or, they’re inviting customers to the classic car restoration challenge that we organized. There was a golf tournament for the first time last year, which was very successful. There are lots of other activities too, like Camp 4, or new launches.
Through all this change at Porsche, the 911 is still the heart and soul of the company. Unlike pretty much every other sports car, it has lasted through the decades by staying true to its original formula. Why?
It’s eight generations of evolution. You know, Ferry Porsche said that evolution is much more difficult than revolution, because you need to refine and refine. If you look at the new 992-generation Porsche 911, it’s a very modern car. Look inside, there’s an all-digital dash with a 10.9-inch screen. It’s very modern, but you instantly recognize it as a 911. I think that what people also like is the fact that it’s an everyday car. It’s still the only sports car you can drive every day, that you can drive in snow, that you can bring your kids to school in.
Why do you drive an old 911?
It’s a 964 (911) Cabrio, from 1990. A great looking car, violet metallic with a white, cream-coloured interior. I drove it around Niagara and Muskoka and to Montreal. It’s just about having a good time. Enjoying life; that’s it.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.