Times of Oman speaks to Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE.
2020 has been a difficult year for a lot of industries, automotive included. How has Porsche dealt with the issues regionally and what effect, if any, has it had on the business?
It has been a year unlike any other, but I'm pleased to say we’ve dealt with it head-on. Naturally, the safety and well-being of our employees were at the forefront of our decision-making. Thanks to flexible business plans, fast support measures, creative ideas and above all, the great support of our Porsche partners across the region, we can be proud of what we achieved.
We started the year off well and reported a 5-per cent growth in new car deliveries in the first quarter of 2020. Following the lockdown in the second quarter, which unsurprisingly affected our business, we had the best third-quarter results over a 5-year period.
What would you say have been the most significant moments and milestones for Porsche throughout the Middle East in 2020?
Despite COVID-19 presenting a challenge on a scale which we have never seen before, we took big steps throughout the year that will continue to impact our operations positively in the years to come. What I found most inspiring is how hard my entire team worked to overcome the challenges. Rather than taking the easy way out, we’ve turned them into opportunities by finding innovative ways to significantly accelerate the implementation of digital technologies across the business. We were not only the first region amongst all Porsche subsidiaries in the world to introduce an online sales platform at our Dubai importer, but also very exciting projects like the virtual customer consultation.
Electrification is something Porsche is taking seriously as demonstrated with the launch of the highly anticipated Taycan. What has been the reaction to the car across the region to date?
We’ve seen a positive initial reaction from consumers and enthusiasts, underpinned by a strong order bank. The Taycan is a game-changer in the industry with 13 brand-new technical innovations. It’s ideal for everyday driving pleasure in the modern age, featuring all the benefits that come with an electric vehicle, such as high-powered electric performance, instant torque, and multiple accelerations at full power for consistent timing. When you see a passionate 911 Turbo owner behind the wheel of a Taycan for the first time, experiencing the instant power release when they put their foot down, you know the future has arrived. The Taycan is proof that our brand continuously excites with ground-breaking and exciting innovations, offering the best product in each segment.
We’ve already seen some exciting activity around the launch of the Panamera, in particular your campaign for Female Empowerment. Can you tell us more about the campaign and how Porsche are championing workplace diversity in the region?
To mark the upcoming regional release of our latest Panamera, we collaborated with some influential and driven females from across the Gulf region for an inspirational campaign. In keeping with the model’s tagline of Drive Defines Us, we present their unique and inspiring stories as leading examples of how highly ambitious women can make significant strides within their line of work. The campaign shines a spotlight on their achievements, with the aim of encouraging other women in the Middle East to pursue careers in male-dominated professions.
Just recently, we have welcomed two females in senior management roles. Shurooq Zainal’s has been promoted to Legal & Compliance Director for the MEA Region. She is our first female Emirati in the Director team. With Aileen Fahr, we have secured our first woman in a senior role in the regional Sales Team, looking after our African markets.
The launch of the new Panamera represents a significant milestone in the development of the model. What would you say are the main USPs?
Quite simply, the new Panamera boasts best-in-class performance, enhanced comfort and chassis management and a sportier visual appearance. Across the new range, it has performance credentials ranging from 330 to 700 PS. With 630 PS, the new Turbo S is a segment leader with 80 PS more power than the previous flagship Turbo with a combustion engine. Fans of the Panamera will certainly enjoy driving it in Sport Plus mode, where the Turbo S accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in just 3.1 seconds.
In line with our growing E-Performance programme, our luxury sports saloon is a trailblazer for electromobility, with three new high-performance hybrid variants available for the first time, each with a significantly increased electric driving range.
Can you tell us about Porsche’s measures within the workplace to combat issues following COVID-19?
This year has made us rethink the way we live, work and interconnect with one another. I believe that flexibility and an innovative approach across all areas of business is the only way forward. Manifesting a corporate culture where change is accepted and trusting flexible working systems is equally important. I firmly believe the concept of remote working on a part-time basis is here to stay.
What launches, if any, can Porsche enthusiasts get excited about for 2021?
There are many exciting things to look forward to as we look ahead to a busy 2021, most notably the conclusion of the Taycan introduction in our markets. We will also welcome the latest 911 Turbo, new additions to the 718 range and, of course, the latest generation Panamera. We are currently offering the most diverse line-up of sports cars in Porsche’s history, which accommodate a variety of individual needs and preference.
In your role as regional CEO, what are your key objectives for the near future?
Our focus is to always put our business partners and customers at the heart of our operations. A certain degree of volatility in the market will remain for the foreseeable future. As a result, regular communication and information exchange with our business partners is more crucial than ever. Good relationship management with our importers is the key to long-term success, as it builds confidence.
We will continue to strive for further enhancements and innovation around the business, including new and interesting ways to engage with customers. I’m excited about 2021 and what it has in store for us.