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Macan's success shows luxe car market has bucked slowdown trend: Pavan Shetty, Porsche India Director

The Porsche India boss revealed that the fully-electric Taycan will launch next year in July.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Dec 11, 2019, 01.37 PM IST
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Pavan Shetty said that Porsche defines the sports car market in India.​
Pavan Shetty said that Porsche defines the sports car market in India.
India presents a challenging market for most foreign carmakers. The automotive sector is undergoing a contraction. Fewer vehicles are being sold. Luxury cars, however, continue to find takers.

Pavan Shetty, who has been in the driver’s seat at Porsche India for the past four years, reckons that the market will turn a corner soon. In an interview, Shetty spoke of Porsche’s sales strategy, upcoming launches, and why luxury carmakers risk diluting their brand equity by engaging in price wars. Edited excerpts:

There has been a gradual uptick in wealth creation at the top of the pyramid. There are more high-net-individuals (HNIs) in India than ever before. Has this translated into larger sales numbers for Porsche?
It does help to an extent, but the transformative power of this section of the demographic is different for different businesses. We, as a brand, are all about emotion and passion. Emotion is not something you generate one fine day in the morning. It is a curated affair that takes time. It is a journey. HNIs cannot sustain growth in the luxury car market on their own. It (sales) is a function of the infrastructure, the duty structure, the network penetration, and the product portfolio. The Porsche Macan has proved to be very successful. We are quite happy with the way are progressing, but we can do a lot more. This we are planning for the next couple of years.

Luxury brands are placed on a pedestal and have great aspirational value because of the hefty price tags they command. Given that such brands are relatively niche, how important are sales figures, especially during a slowdown?
For a luxury brand, it is not really about the numbers. We focus on our margins and exclusivity. If we start chasing numbers, then we are no longer a luxury brand. What we typically do is to make sure that the brand perception is really top notch – the customers have a great buying experience, and we have the right products in this country at the right price points. The Macan is one such offering.

We will shortly be launching the Cayenne, which for the first time comes in a coupe variant. This is then touching a separate segment within the Cayenne range. It is targeted at people who really appreciate performance because, as it is, Cayenne behaves like a sports car but the coupe would really push the limit. Then we have a complete new model, the Taycan, which will be launched around July next year. It is fully electric, and will, again, be focused on a different segment of customer altogether. We are opening up different segments to cater to different audiences. We are no longer catering to just sports car buyers. The scope is much wider and that is very exciting.

What has been Porsche's sales mix across the product range been like over the past few years?
Around 65 per cent of our sales come from SUVs – the Cayenne and Macan. The former is a full-fledged SUV and the other is a compact SUV. The remaining 35 per cent comes from sports cars – 911, 718 and the Panamera. We have a balanced portfolio and the sales mix is not lopsided. In a country where you expect SUVs to do well, our cars are very well accepted. We define the sports car market in India. In fact, Porsche is the sports car market in India.

How do you cater to customers who are chauffeured around and those who are auto enthusiasts looking for a peppy drive, probably on weekends?
People who are chauffeur-driven would probably not want sports cars, but if you look at two-door sports cars, we are the market leaders. There are no published numbers, so I can’t really tell you the percentage, but through internal research, it is evident that we are a big contributor to the sports car market in India. This goes to show that people who drive our cars are convinced of what the cars can do in terms of behavior.

The 718 is a mid-engine car – the weight distribution is 50:50. The 911 is a rear engine car which has a completely different level of performance and cornering.
People like what they are getting, because some of the cars that we have sold in India have actually increased in value. This is not something that you hear very often. As I like to say, we defy physics, and we also defy economics. There are a few limited edition models of which only a few were sold. These are eyed by collectors and fetch huge sums in the resale market.

The facelifted Macan which was recently launched comes at a price point that’s lower than its siblings. Was this a calculated decision to bring in more aspiring buyers to the Porsche fold?
Absolutely, since the starting price is Rs 69.99 lakh. When you compare our portfolio with the competition, you can see that our models cost 25 per cent more on an average. Luxury is not just about the price point, it is about how much of a premium customers will have to pay over what other brands (with stripped down features) offer.

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