Panamera sales expected to stay steady in 2011

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After a year on the market, Porsche’s Panamera has certainly left its dealers and the powers that be at Porsche Cars Canada smiling.

Despite sluggish industry sales surrounding the luxury, four-door’s Oct. 2009 launch, the expectations in one year have been surpassed, helping the German automaker grab 15 per cent of a competitive segment virtually overnight.

“We have sold well over 400 Panameras in Canada since its launch a year
ago,” Joe Lawrence, president of Porsche Cars Canada said. “Coming out of the financial crisis a year ago, 300 to 350 appeared to be a more likely target.”

The vehicle’s success, he said, is owed to a number of factors, least of which the hard work of dealers in promoting the car.     

“My message to our dealers is congratulations, and there's more where that came from,” he adds.

Lawrence said the Panamera was designed to reach out to a new target audience for Porsche forcing his team to work outside of its “comfort zone” for many of its marketing initiatives.

“For instance, the national launch of the vehicle was actually held in conjunction with Holt Renfrew, who hosted a first-class launch event at their flagship store in downtown Toronto, as well as exhibiting cars in stores.”

The program also included a customer lifestyle publication, courtesy of Porsche’s advertising agency Yield, called B4 to demonstrate how the Panamera could fit into potential customers' lives.

“Our dealers also stepped up with several creative marketing initiatives.
Many of them held launch events outside of the dealership, in airplane hangars, at clothing stores and other innovative locations. Dealerships also developed marketing partnerships with other high-end luxury brands like Harry Rosen,” he said.

Heading into its second year on the market, representatives at Porsche said the recently launched V6-powered model (priced from $88,000) should keep demand strong. While Lawrence admits to some expected “decay” in interest for the high-end Turbo model, he said sales should remain relatively steady of what he calls the “core,” Panamera 4 and 4S.

“A number of revised competitors are entering the market, but we think the Panamera remains a unique proposition as the only true sports car with four adult-sized seats,” he said.

Finishing behind the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class for total volume through three quarters of 2010, Lawrence said the company was never aiming for volume supremacy in the large luxury sedan segment; noting that with just 14 dealers, Porsche is purposely scaled to “retain a measure of exclusivity as opposed to ultimate volume potential.”

Look for Porsche’s Canadian Currency Credits to remain (as long as the Canadian dollar remains strong versus the U.S. greenback) and the new customization option that includes 20-inch wheels, an aerodynamics package and a power kit for the Panamera Turbo that boosts power from 500 horsepower to 540 to help drive sales.

Also, Lawrence adds, a Panamera Hybrid will hit showroom floors sometime in 2011.

“We sold 1,823 vehicles in our last fiscal year (ended July 31, 2010), that’s a 12 per cent increase over the previous year. For the calendar year, we are now up 15 per cent… we expect a phenomenal close to this year and even bigger things in 2011.”