Always wanted a Porsche? Would never think of actually buying one? Why? The idea of owning a Porsche is one of those boyhood fantasies that you flirt with every so often and quickly dispel when the realities of supercar ownership in Malaysia sink in.
The fact is that if like me, you’re not technically inclined, don’t have your mechanic on speed dial, don’t belong to a certain political party and your uncle isn’t a car-part supplier, the idea of owning a Porsche is as enticing as a colonoscopy. This was the domain of enthusiasts and of course the very rich, who paid others to worry about such things.
It didn’t matter that in the rest of the world the Porsche was hailed as the most affordable day-to-day driver in its class. In Malaysia, you had to be either rich, stupid or as in most cases, both. And this is in essence, what I call POP (Power Of Presence).
The strength of a car brand is directly proportional to its owners presence. It doesn’t matter if you have the best car in the world, if I don’t see enough of you, I can’t trust you. This has been the case for Porsche in Malaysia for many years. It was the enclave of a select few and not so much because they cost a lot, but because most of us never really felt “safe” about the brand in Malaysia.
It would seem that the boys from Zuffenhausen have caught on to this and have been slowly but surely gaining speed with Sime Darby Auto Performance (SDAP). Where in the past, a Porsche event happened three times a year, in the last month alone, we were at three. It’s about time when you consider that Malaysia is actually Porsche’s largest market in ASEAN.
So, yes SDAP launched two new models – The Boxster GTS and the Cayman GTS. Incredible cars both and hugely satisfying. The GTS roots can be traced to the 904 Carrera GTS that came out in 1963 and it is supposed to represent the ultimate thin-air limits of racetrack performance and daily driving.
According to SDAP’s CEO, Arnt Bayer, this was a natural progression for Porsche. “The GTS concept has already been implemented in the 911, Cayenne and Panamera. And now the very same concept adorns the new Boxster GTS and Cayman GTS, both lightweight mid-engined sports cars, making it possible for customers to enjoy superior race track performance with uncompromising everyday utility and comfort”, he said.
As I said earlier, cracker cars and I could talk about their mid-engine maneuverability or the intoxicating sound track but I think the significance of these two models is what they represent as Porsche’s intent in Malaysia.
Let’s face it, these aren’t exactly “key” models and where in the past a perfunctory release would have been the order of the day, Porsche seems to be coming out swinging. Bayer clearly knows why this is important when he said, “people are happy to spend if they trust the local dealer”. Fighting words but if the attention paid to such low volume models so late in the life cycle is anything to go by, they are backing it up.
SDAP seems to be adressing many of the ambiguities of the past with a new showroom in KL, another on the way in Penang, after-sales and warranty packages plus a more earnest effort to reach out to customers. The results seem to be already showing with continued growth for the brand and while he wasn’t ready to commit a figure, Bayer expects 2015 to be a fairly strong year for them.
Regardless of what the final numbers are, if this is their thinking, then they are already winning. In typically “wait and see” Malaysia, building a premium car brand requires time, effort and perseverance because we pay so much for our cars. We expect a premium dealer to not only talk and look like one but to act like one. Otherwise, there’s any number of grey dealers waiting to line their AP-laden pockets. And this is where SDAP has to wage the war. Price is not a strategic competitive advantage – POP is.
∗The Boxster GTS has a 3.4L flat-six with 330hp and 340Nm. It will do the 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds. The Cayman GTS shares the same displacement offering 340hp and 380Nm. 0-100 in 4.6 seconds. They cost RM660,000 and RM700,000 respectively.