by Katharine Erwin
"I never understood someone who says, I want the blue car with the beige interior and buys the black car with a grey interior. I never get that, but it happens all the time." These are the words of Sascha Glaeser, the US manager of Porsche's Customer Consultation Program. His mission is to give the Porsche customer exactly what they want, in a world of ever-demanding consumers who seek uniqueness.
The program that started in Germany (which accounts for 10% of their market) has successfully come stateside (which accounts for 25% of their market). What makes Porsche's program unique to other manufacturer's build programs are the virtually limitless combinations and exceptional luxuries. From exterior color to wheel combinations to interior features, set-up, and materials (you can have leather air-vents). The list goes on. On top of these options, the statistic that over 70% of all Porsches ever built are still on the road is an enticing variable in the making, as Glaeser would say, "the most personal car you'll own."
Clients who use the program appreciate Porsche's legacy. They understand the investment and accept the delayed gratification. "The quickest you can get it is three to four months, depending if you are on the east or west coast. It can take longer depending on how you spec the car," Glaeser tells me. "If you chose paint to sample or leather to sample, then we have to test the colors, we have to double check with the client to see if that is exactly what they want—so there is a little bit of development with that. It can take up to six, seven, eight months before they can get the car, but it is more individualized because it's their own color." Unlike other auto-makers, Porsche's customization is all made in Germany, down to the leather (which only comes from German and Austrian cows.) This allows Porsche to test all the options, which after-market shops can't do, this would ultimately lessen the value and often times the functionally of the car.
Pricing can add up and making decisions on specs can be a little tedious. Glaeser recalls his longest consultation. It was with a couple who "couldn't really make up their minds. They saw all the different cars, we have about 30 show cars in Germany that are fully equipped, so it is even more difficult if you see all the different variations. You may like two different ones, so which one do you go with? It can take quite some time." In the end, they bought two cars: one for him and her.
"They will probably spend the rest of their lives with that car," Glaeser says, although some clients come in every couple of years. But the overall concept for the program is counter-intuitive to today's "buy it now" climate. Their mission is not to sell more cars, but rather to gain lifelong collaborators.
Images courtesy of Katharine Erwin