Sports car brand Porsche is taking a page out of the Apple playbook with a new design concept. This concept isn’t a unique vehicle design this time, but rather an immersive way to experience Porsche in a setting unlike a dealership. The first Porsche Studio is set to open in Portland, Oregon in 2022 with more to follow in coming years.
The purpose for Porsche Studio is an educational experience for its models and technologies, and retailing is not the primary objective. It’s been reported that Porsche corporate aims to have Studio locations owned by Porsche dealers rather than sell directly to the consumer in a Tesla-style transaction.
In an interview with Automotive News, Porsche Cars North America CEO Kjell Gruner sees the Studio experience as an opportunity to engage with new customers and meet them in the most convenient way possible. Although it’s not the focus, in-store customers have the option to place an order for a vehicle. Locations are staffed by Porsche Pros, not salespeople, who have detailed knowledge across the spectrum of Porsche models and tech.
A global concept for Porsche
Portland is far from the first location for a Porsche Studio, but it is the first one in the US. In June 2018, Porsche Studio Milan opened in northern Italy in a neighborhood known for high fashion. Other locations were opened afterward including Cheongdam, South Korea and two more in Taiwan. Studios have also been opened earlier this year in Hanoi, Vietnam as well as Tainan, Taiwan.
Now with more than a dozen global Studios, Porsche is clearly leaning into what they refer to as their Future Retail Strategy. The intent is to inform and engage younger shoppers, whether they’re shopping now or going to be in-market in the coming years. Gruner says the Studio concept is more attractive to these groups. “New target groups … are not willing to drive a long way to the dealership. They say, ‘Be where I am.’”
Dealers skeptical of Studios
Dealers, however, haven’t been as enthusiastic in the US. The prevailing thought is that Porsche should remain an “aspirational brand” rather than following trendy installations in malls or seeking out a piece of the mass-market pie.
But Gruner believes that the model that Apple Stores have made an unequivocal success are the way forward. Combined with an increasingly digital retail environment for the auto industry, he leans toward a change in how storefronts will do business as well. Of the customer experience that car buyers expect today, Gruner says, “The customer doesn’t distinguish between a physical experience and a digital experience. They have one experience, and it needs to be emotional. It needs to be seamless. It needs to be convenient.”
Will other mass-market carmakers follow?
Porsche is a niche brand, but an influential one. Their pursuit of the Studio concept may be controversial among their dealer network, but it closely follows the experience customers will have with Tesla, Polestar, and other upcoming brands that sell directly.
Could the Studio model be the next thing in auto retail, even for brands like the Big Three in Detroit? Ford already turns more than 30% of their sales through factory orders, and an informational experience like the Porsche Studio offers could easily facilitate ordering for a high-intent shopper.
It’s well-known that the traditional dealership model isn’t disappearing, and Studio locations are in addition to retail lots, not replacing them. Perhaps this style of car shopping experience could be copied and used as a feeder for retail locations among top carmakers.
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