German Carmaker Porsche’s latest offering in India, the all-new and more affordable Macan, was launched in July at a base price of just ₹69.98 lakh—quite gutsy for a luxury car-maker whose cars are normally priced much higher. But it fits perfectly with Porsche’s India strategy of widening its customer base and tapping into newer cities. About a year after its global premiere, the Macan—which derives its name from the Indonesian word for tiger—is all set to woo Indian audiences with its luxury sports car-meets-compact SUV style combo. The four-cylinder vehicle can go from 0-100 kmph in just 6.7 seconds. Fortune India spoke to Porsche India director Pavan Shetty about reaching out to a new customer base in India with the Macan facelift and Porsche’s foray into electric mobility.

Edited excerpts:

There has been an increase in HNIs (high net worth individuals) in India in the last few years. Do you view this as a big opportunity?

HNI numbers definitely support total sales. There is no doubt about it. But even within HNIs,it is important that we have the right product for the right target group and the Macan is definitely an initiative in that direction. The Macan comes at a price of ₹69.98 lakh. We believe that there is a segment in the range of this price bracket that would really enjoy driving the car themselves. And Porsche as a brand is all about self-driving, enjoying driving pleasure,pushing the car to the limit, great handling, and a great quality car. That’s where we are positioning our car.

The Macan’s facelift is an affordable version for the Indian customer. Are you looking at gaining more numbers?

Numbers are an outcome. The point is to give and increase the possibility of experiencing Porsche with a wider target group. Rightnow, if somebody has a passion for driving, we have a compact SUV starting at ₹69.98 lakh. We have a powerful compact SUV, the Macan S at `85.03 lakh, which is basically a 354-horsepower (hp) car. And then we have an entire range of the Cayenne starting from ₹1.19 crore. If he wants to buy a sports car, we have a range starting from ₹85 lakh going up to ₹3 crore. We also have a Panamera for ₹2.13 crore. This covers the entire gambit of luxury sports cars.

The whole logic of giving the Macan a new avatar was to have an entire new range of clientele. A luxury carmaker cannot be chasing numbers year-on-year because then the word ‘luxury’ might not remain pertinent to the brand. We’re a company that is interested in building a brand. We want to make sure we are able to charge a premium for what we offer in the market.

So these are the primary drivers for us in the market. Numbers are not important but what we do is that we choose and slice out our customer target group and see what product works best for them. For example, the next launch that we have is the Cayenne Coupe. The Cayenne is already very successful in India but there would be a segment of buyers who would really like to enjoy a sports car experience of the Cayenne. So, the performance angle of the Cayenne needs to be improved and that’s where the Cayenne Coupe comes into the picture.

Is there a core difference between your Indian and foreign clientele?

There are two factors that primarily distinguish the two. One is age. So, if you compareit to Europe, we have a slightly younger age group. And we have slightly more number of male buyers than female buyers. So, these are two distinguishing characteristics in India. But if you look at the psychographic profile, you will find that most of the people who buy a Porsche are successful individuals who at a certain point in time want to reward themselves for the hard work they have done throughout their life. Basically, the achiever’s pride, that’s how I describe a Porsche owner. And this is true for the whole world. Also, you would not find a Porsche driver as somebody who is not interested in driving. All Porsche customers essentially buy a car when they really love driving. There are no major changes for Indian customers. In fact, there is an addition of content. For example, the car now comes with LED [lamps]; that was an option before. There are multiple choices where rear seat comfort is offered. But there aren’t many brands that offer a driver-based car in the luxury segment. It’s not about a price reduction or increase. It’s basically repositioning to a larger audience size in India.

Pavan Shetty, Director, Porsche India
Pavan Shetty, Director, Porsche India
Image : Photo Courtesy: Porsche 

The Macan is a luxury sports car meets a compact SUV. How did you get the balance right?

The Macan is a practical solution for who-ever thought a sports car is not for them. It is definitely a task to achieve when you are so faraway from the ground in terms of your height to maintain a great centre of gravity. But this is what Porsche is really known for—a front-engine, mid- or a rear-engine sports car. TheMacan is a front-engine sports car. For us, it’s for the individual who drives to the office, who drives outdoors on weekends. You can also drive this car on a racetrack.

Your competition like Lamborghini, Ferrari, andMercedes is also betting big on India. How do you differentiate yourself?

If you look at any Porsche car—be it an extreme sports car like a 911 Turbo or a 718 which is an entry-level sports car—you can drive all these cars on a daily basis. They are extremely easy, comfortable, and everyday use sports cars. This is what Porsche stands for. But at the same time, if you put any of the cars on a racetrack, they will behave extremely well. I have experienced a lot of sports cars in my life but I haven’t seen cornering ability better than the 911 in any of the cars. They are great practical sports cars to be driven on roads. There aren’t cars that multitask on both levels. In my opinion, the price of a caror the value of a car is what is associated inthe mind of the customer. And it’s a sum total of product, experience, ownership, the pride of owning a brand like Porsche. And when we charge so much, we also make sure that the value in return is also equally high.

Tell us something about your move into electric mobility.

When we talk of electric cars, people generally talk of range and commute and comfort and charging points. While we, on top of that, are saying that an electric car will also drive like a true Porsche. That will remain true for every model ever launched or tobe ever launched. So, basically, their driving experience wouldn’t be compromised.

Electric is a question of mindset. Auto-shift in India happened in 2013-14 in mass cars,but auto-shift happened in luxury way back in 2006-07, which is quite at par with what’s happening globally. So, I have a strong hypothesis that luxury customers are quite open to change. And they want to experiment with something that is new, something that makes them unique.

An electrified Porsche is something that fits into the story very well. Which is also confirmed by the fact that we already have quite a few enquiries on the new e-car. People are already enquiring about the range. Though it’s a great driver’s car, it will still have a range of 500 km. It is built on an 800-volt architecture, which means that it can be charged 80% in less than 15 minutes. It will startmaking sense from a pollution perspective, infrastructure perspective, and cost of ownership perspective, and the fact that it will still remain a great driving car.

How do you view the luxury car segment in the context of the overall industry slowdown in India?

This year the market has been extremely tough. And I don’t know when the revival would be but for us, I think it’s a good time to also invest in our brand even further, which is also supported by all the product launches that we’re doing aggressively. I think it has got to do with the buyer sentiment. And that for me is the most important factor as to how does he see a luxury purchase. For that, Ithink the business, in general, has to do well.At the end of the day, it’s all about the demand our buyers have for their businesses.I know that automobiles are a cyclical business. Every five years you have a bit of a downcycle. So, I’m hoping the next few months, which have the festival season, might see an upshift.

(This interview was originally published in the September 2019 issue of the magazine.)

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