Sunday, August 23, 2009

The new Porsche Panamera – Four-Door Fiasco?

Last week, Porsche unveiled the new 2010 Panamera, the German carmaker's first four-door luxury sedan. The new sedan, due to hit US showrooms in October, comes at the same time Porsche is being taken over by Volkswagen, joining a portfolio of brands that includes Audi, Bentley, and Lamborghini. With a price of $90,000 for the S model, rising to $132,600 for the Turbo, Porsche says the Panamera is designed to appeal to "customers who, over and above the exclusive comfort and spaciousness of a luxury saloon, also expect the consistent sporting performance so typical of a Porsche." But analysts, writers, and Porsche purists are giving the Panamera the same chilly reception that the Cayenne, Porsche's first SUV, received in 2003. As Peter Delorenzo writes in his AutoExtremist blog, the Panamera "marks the end of the historical legacy that once forged the reputation of Porsche, it’s a blatant repudiation of everything that its founder once stood for." So what would you do if you were responsible for the Porsche brand? How would you ensure a successful launch of the Panamera? And what steps would you take to reassure people that this does not mark the beginning of the end for the Porsche brand?

34 comments:

  1. I say good luck to them. There are always 'brand loyalists' who don't want any kind of change. I remember 20 years ago when BMW motorcycles had a very loyal, but small audience, and they decided to innovate with new engines, designs and more advanced technologies. All the "loyalists" were sure they'd fail, but the motorcycle division is more popular and financially sound as a result.

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  2. This is a brand betrayal. The Porsche brand is perceived as synonymous with the category of a high performance sports car. The Panamera is a move away from Porsche's competitive advantage. Because of this, I would not have gone forward with the Panamera.

    In a previous recession, Porsche had a wildly successful product introduction. In 1982, Porsche introduced the 944. The 944 was consistent with Porsche's competitive advantage and demonstrated an understanding of market conditions. It was an entry level sports car, a model not as sophisticated as the more upscale 911. It was a really well designed product, as it won Car and Driver awards in the first few model years. It allowed for more people to experience Porsche as it was priced lower than the 911, showing that Porsche was sensitive to the conditions of the era without diminishing the brand equity of the company's premier offering. A quality product, priced correctly and consistent with market's perceptions of the brand enabled the 944 to be a vital part of Porsche's success throughout the 1980s.

    Because the Panamera doesn't fit the brand concept as well as the 944 did, I certainly do not feel that it will be a component of success for Porsche during the 2010s.

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  3. So long brand positioning. So long to the brand image, to meaningful, relevant differentiation. Can't you just hear internal group think say: "who cares how customer's perceive the Porsche brand. We're going to make sports-like cars for the masses just like our competitors." Really...who will get excited about owning and driving a 4-door Porsche? Are pickup trucks next?
    Porsche is a company void ideas, grabbing at anything to make a sale. Loyal Porsche owners will not forgive them.

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  4. I had a boxster and loved it. They already have that stupid Cayenne thing, so maybe the 4-door sedan will work for them. Althought it's brand betrayal, it's better than bankruptcy!

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  5. Can you then explain the success of the Porsche Cayenne? The Cayenne is a five-seat mid-size luxury utility vehicle, which Porsche unveiled a few years ago. I believe Porsche is just reaching out to a wider, broader market. I think the focus is still on 'high performance', and maybe no longer on 'sports car'.

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  6. The Panamera, like the Porsche Cayenne would be better utilized as a sub-brand, clearly marketed as an alternative, high-quality sedan that has the Porsche excellence. But it does detract from the Porsche brand equity to David's point because the core essence of Porsche is all about high performance sports cars and the Panamera doesn't stay true to that. Plus I don't like the name. It lacks a verbal ease-of-use.

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  7. I would launch it by revving it to eight grand and dumping the clutch....... They said the same things about the Cayenne and it is the by far the best selling Porsche

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  8. The real brand betrayal was the SUV thing...until this day I watch with amazement the few of them I see on the road. I almost never see them in Europe, its an animal created only for the Americans, and it was a real departure from the brand position and essence.
    Maseratti has both 4 door sedans and sport models, and it is accepted as part of a holistic brand approach.
    I think that if Porsche had developed the sedan first, not the SUV thing, it would not seem such a deviation from the soul.
    But now with a SUV, a sedan and sports car, the next thing I would expect them to come up with is a van.

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  9. Ilan I believe that this new Porsche lacks the proprietary "WOW" factor that is an integral quality of the brand and the Panamera completely lacks that because sedans just don't live in the same mind space as a high performance sports car. I see a Cayenne on the road maybe once a year and I do about 100 miles of driving a day in my daily commute on the PA turnpike and 1-95. Porsche has always been about capturing the imagination. Sedans don't occupy that strata.

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  10. It was once said that "Broadening your market sometimes has more to do with your market's pants size than with your brand strategy."

    This is about pant size, not about brand strategy. Sorry.

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  11. Neither. Brand extension. Brands are not set in stone, they must be dynamic, flexible, change with the times. They are not writ large from on high, they have to live in the real, not the idealized, abstract world of the consultant. Maserati, like Porsche, was always known for their two-door roadsters and coupés. Then Quattroporte came on the scene. Even Lamborghini once had a 2-door, four-seater, the Espada. It was the best selling Lambo ever until the Countach. And good God, Lamborghini STARTED as a tractor manufacturer. It's hard to keep 'em down on the farm... so sit back and wait for all those thirty-something hotshots who suddenly find themselves with a wife and a couple of kinder to shlep. The Panamera must surely seem to them to have arrived from Heaven. It's called having your cake and eating it too--a sound business strategy every time. How to launch it? That answer will require some BIG BUCKS on the table first, mon ami.

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  12. Brand extension or evolution? A square block for a round hole or have they identified a square hole out there? I think it still looks like a Porsche, but it is visibly different enough (4 doors) to give people something to talk about.

    If the company is comfortable with the change in perception that will occur (aka Cayenne) then go for it, however, this is neither a "design breakthrough" or "brand betrayal". It's just the coolest looking, and probably performing, sedan out there.

    Hey, you can now stick a car seat in back and give your grandkids a joyride. How's that for introducing the Porche brand to a new generation.

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  13. So how many of you think that Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno will add the new 4-door thing or SUV thing to their collection?
    If you'll say "yes" for sure, it is a good vote of confidence in the brand.

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  14. Perhaps I'm looking at this from too much of a pop standpoint, but my first reaction was to think of the Batmobile. However, in this era of economic turmoil, and when Marvel Comics have taken over the movie houses over and over, maybe this was what some of the designers were thinking as well.

    This does NOT look like a sedan. I looks like a Porsche. A stretch Porsche, yes. But they've maintained the sleek and 'speedy' looking lines.

    Yes, it's a 4door. But that isn't it's primary identity. I don't think I'd say 'hey look at that sedan' if I saw one of these cruising down the block. Even if there was a baby seat in the back.

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  15. Porsche has had the overpriced version of the Tourag for several years.

    How would I launch it - go after the Quatroporte, Jag, Mercedes and BMW owners. Market directly to them rather than (rather wasteful) institutional marketing campaigns.

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  16. Harley-Davidson faces similar issues with its 'brand loyalists', which is why my '09 Street Glide is air-cooled. Ironically, they worked with Porsche to develop a liquid cooled engine and launched the V-Rod with some success a few years ago. The result was to bring in some sport-bike enthusiasts who just needed an excuse to buy a Harley-Davidson.

    If I base the strenght of their brand on re-sale value, I'd say that their core customer base has not been impacted by the change, while expanding their base with the V-Rod. Now if they'd just come out with a liquid-cooled bagger, maybe July wouldn't be so brutal! (Air-cooled bikes give off a lot of heat.)

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  17. I agree it's brand betrayal here. In regards to launching this in the U.S., I wouldn't. I'd quietly kick some dirt over it and get back to the drawing board!

    I think Porsche needs to be asking themselves what their brand means to consumers. Porsche has always been for the sports car enthusiasts, and a 4-door sedan just doesn't have anything to offer there. Then again, the brand betrayal began with the Cayenne.

    Does the entry-level luxury car follow? Will Porsche soon be competing with Buick??

    I hope not. Bury the Panamera.

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  18. The Panamera is as polarizing to Porschefiles as the Cayenne was when it was introduced. The high performance lux segment has changed rapidly in the last decade and the Porsche brand is evolving. Honoring the essence of the brand (the promise of high performance in a look that cannot be mistaken for anything but a Porshce), the company is not breaking ground in the SUV or supesedan segments to be innovative as much as it is to capture a share of the high ends of those markets which have evolved around it.

    In the case of the Panamera, the Mercedes S-class and BMW 7-series have reached the magic $100k plateau and spawned a new market of uber-perfoming, attainable lux sedans. The Bently Arnage line has become more spirited (and common), Maserati is enjoying success with the Quattroporte, and even Lamborghini is slated to debut the Estoque super sedan in 2011. The Panamera is unmistakeably a Porsche and promises the performance expected of the brand in a four door GT.

    As for making business sense, try telling the Porsche shareholders that the company will eschew profitabilty and stick to the 911 and Boxter/Cayman lines while their customers are snapping lux sedans of other manufacturers for everyday practical use. It could be argued that the 911 is a sub-brand of Porsche and not the sole definition of Porsche.

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  19. Panamera? Is that the re-branded St. Louis Bread Company that is marketed as a healthy fast casual restaurant that has become the preferred lunch venue for many working Americans? I don’t think so. Sight reading is critical. This is my naming statement.

    Americans buy SUV’s. Kids, hobbles and snow are all good reasons to buy. Americans buy luxury hi-performance cars. Status, business and luxury are all good reasons to buy. I think Porsche has done their research and are going to push their brand into vehicles that increase profits.

    BTW...sports car guys are nuts anyway will never sell their “trophy car” because it’s them. They define their own segment and will not cross over.
    Wait, the cross over! Is that next my friends?

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  20. As a lifelong P-car owner, restore/enthusiast I was very excited about the prospect of a 4 door sedan. At first blush I feel they missed the mark from a styling standpoint. However, I felt that way about the first Cayenne as well. Now I love the Cayenne.

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  21. Think about VW's mistake with its uber sedan the Phaeton. I think Porsche should have steered clear of stooping to the sport utility silliness with the Cayenne. It looks ridiculous. Now that VW/Audi/Porshce are one, there is a real opportunity for brand differentiation, instead of blending and confusing the three.

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  22. With the introduction of the Cayenne Porsche already streched the brand. For some that was a same and a blatant repudiation for the brand but for others it was the moment to finally bought the family car from the brand they loved. So for those ultimate Porsche lovers who want to buy a family car they could choose between SUV or Panamera. I would really recom the Panamera cause it's a streched Porsche and more a sport car feeling ever than the SUV.
    Who is the target group for the Panamera? Will that be the second family car for Porsche?

    But in the end I really hope and looking forward to the next introduction of an old school Porsche and that we all could say; 'damn I have to save some money cause I really want the new Porsche'

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  23. If people can change the way they look without changing their character why not a brand as well? I agree that the introduction of an SUV by Porsche stretched the brand (more likely a departure from the brand)...partly because the SUV at its core is hardly recognized for 'sport' or 'engineering' or 'design' the very things Porsche tends to be renowned for in automotive circles for. I see the Panamera as a natural extension of the brand...extending the essence of Porsche to the backseat and 'future' customers...

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  24. Neither - this 4 door looks like a Porsche at least (and performs like a Porsche too according to the specs). The Cayenne was a much bigger break with the Porsche brand, and they've survived that. Well, maybe not. We'll see how the VW acquisition goes for the Porsche brand.

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  25. Porsche has survived on a self-induced narrow bandwidth of models and are very cautious as brand stewards. They know their markets, segment them well and deliver a product consistently as promised to customers in the areas of design, quality and performance.

    I expect no less in their introduction (and success) of the Panamera.

    (Oops. I kinda forgot about that 'ole 914 idea a few years ago - but nevermind).

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  26. My feelings on the Cayenne is that it's too much a jump on the bandwagon without consideration of the climate of the times or the nature of the brand.

    Yes, people can change how they look. But people can then open their mouths and talk. Even then, walking into a business meeting dressed like a goth or a punk will change if people actually HEAR you when you speak. They will be spending a LOT of time processing their visual impressions of you.

    To take that metaphor a bit further, if the Cayenne is someone walking into a meeting dressed like a goth, then the Panamera is someone dressed for Casual Friday. It's an accepted departure. They've still got on the nice shoes, the high quality pants... the haven't gotten a ton of piercings and tattoos.

    As I said before, the Panamera still looks like a Porsche. The Cayenne looks like just another SUV Lexus/Toyota/Hyundai clone. Never mind the fact that launching an SUV in '03. . . and still expecting it to make money in '09 is just plain foolish.

    Gas guzzlers are out. Responsible, well engineered, fuel efficient [except when you're doing 135mph to make your toddler giggle] vehicles are in. The Panamera is PERFECT for right now.

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  27. I would offer three day test drives to all those people whose leases on competitive models are coming due in September or October. I would then offer a rock bottom price on leases or purchases to get the vehicles out in the marketplace. I'd also offer special deals to current 911 Porsche owners who also have high end luxury sedans..

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  28. Saying that Porsche should only be a 2 seater is like saying that First Class seats should only be available on International flights. It's short sighted and leaves out a bunch of potential customers that settle for other brands.

    This is a tough one, although I think they can do it right (I haven't seen the vehicle). It's dangerous to have a brand associated with a product, rather than a vision or experience and it sounds that many perceive Porsche's brand as being synonymous with a singular type of vehicle.

    For example, BMW's brand is associated with engineering excellence and Mercedes is with elegance and those things traverse the product line (except when BMW took a Honda and called it a 325i....)

    Porsche is associated with performance. That can play well across a variety of vehicles and I for one see a few holes for people that want performance and elegance, but not a sedan or 2 seater. Porsche is not Lamborghini or Maserati. It's not a specialty car, or should not be.

    I was a BMW fan and still am, but I wanted an SUV. I opted for the BMW X5 because it didn't look too much like a mini-van and had the 700 Series drive train and suspension. So, it looked and had the room of an SUV but drove and handled like a sedan. I loved it. Then I needed more of a truck for room and storage, but didn't want a pick-up truck. I was completely out of luck and had to settle for a Chevy (Avalanche).

    I wish I could pick up that kind of vehicle as a BMW or Porsche.

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  29. I'm really sorry you had to go from a BMW to a Chevy Avalanche. That is painful.
    Unless, you are towing a beautiful Bayliner and the Avalanche's room and storage is for your friends and boating stuff.

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  30. The Concept is valid but the execution is questionable. Porsche Design has become too dogmatic. Scaling up a 911 was too predictable. The vehicle looks bloated and the interior plank w. buttons design is not very elegant. I wish the brand success!

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  31. I agree. Just like the Cayenne, this car is like a mangled 911. No need to dogmatically insist on making it look like a Carrera.

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  32. I'd say neither a design breakthrough nor a betrayal. If the sedan shares enough of the 911 DNA from a performance & handling perspective, I think its a logical extension of the brand & like the Cayenne SUV, can supply the company with additional sales volume/cashflow to continue to innovate, directly benefiting future 911s/Caymans/Boxsters.

    I know 911 purists strongly disagree, but there are probably quite a few owners who would love a 4 door Porsche parked in the garage bay next to their 911, not to mention many other who love what Porsche stands for yet just couldn't spend the $ for a 2-seater or 2+2. Position this car as a Porsche to the core; the extra 2 doors does not come at the expense of any of the performance & driving experience, build quality, etc.

    However, I am very disappointed in the design & therefore can't call it a design breakthrough. Quite frankly I think its unattractive, especially the back half of the car; the lines & proportions don"t appeal to me like a 911 or Cayman.

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  33. This launch should be very exclusive and Porsche aught to be careful not to sell the V6 as they did some of their other models.

    I like Mark Bilfield's comments and agree on most, with the exception of offering a "rock bottom price". As a car enthusiast and an owner of a 911, I believe it is a tremendous breakthrough. Most Porsche fans knew the 4 door sedan had been in the works for over a decade. If we could come to grips with a 4 wheel drive/SUV (which I whole heartedly have) we can accept the Panamera. Offering a rock bottom price might undermine the incredible performance of the car and, at least in major markets, may cause the public to doubt its pedigree and ability (like the Boxster and the Cayenne suffered). Porsche would surely want to avoid this for various reasons including its desire to take on Maserati Quattroporte, the Bently Flying Spur and the forth coming Aston 4 door (built on the same platform).

    Just as important, there are rumors of a 928/968 2-Door type car derived from this Panamera design. This car should be a bigger seller than its 4 door parent. I believe it will be a year or two before we see it; and here we have another reason this model launch should be an exclusive type offering and not a 'flood the market' 'Porsche for the people' type launch.

    I realize my comments come a bit late, and I have not had the opportunity to check sales stats or marketing trends for the car. Based on what I see on the road and receive in terms of information from Porsche, it seems they're on the right track - just need a little more visibility.

    ...Maybe the Panamera will be featured in the next Fantastic 4 or X-Men?

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