Porsche Is Giving Their Dealerships the 'Disneyland' Treatment, and It's a Great Lesson in Adapting to Consumer Trends
As the auto-buying industry evolves, the German carmaker is turning a visit to the dealer into an immersive, interactive experience.
Porsche is shaking up the traditional auto dealership experience -- in which customers visit only to purchase or service vehicles -- with the world premiere of "Destination Porsche," the prototype for the German automaker's next generation of global dealership design. Porsche Palm Springs, part of indiGO Auto Group, is the first location to undergo the transformation.
"Our world is changing very fast," says indiGO CEO Todd Blue. "With so much digital buying occurring, we truly believe the human condition craves community and a way to enjoy, first-hand, the things people love. People want to see, touch, smell, feel and listen; the best things in life are visceral!"
Unlike the open-gallery layout of traditional dealerships, here visitors enter the showroom to face a lineup of cars that resembles the starting grid on a race track. On each side, individual modules feature a specific product line or topic. In Porsche Palm Springs, for example, the modules include a new model at the front, a "Classic Corner" with a vintage vehicle, an area for electric cars, a "Porscheplatz" lounge with a cafe and kids section, a space for car customization and an owner's delivery area.
The environment also serves as a space for consumers; there's a lounge for client events and private dinners, plus digital screens for a variety of screenings, like viewing parties around Le Mans or Formula E races.
Entrepreneur spoke with Blue and Klaus Zellmer, President and CEO, Porsche Cars North America, Inc., for insight into how and why one of the world's most renowned automakers is making such a dramatic transformation.
Where did the idea for Destination Porsche first come from?
Zellmer: Consumer trends are changing fast at the moment, so we decided to find out what the future of retail looks like for our brand. One outcome was a fresh take on dealership design, and Porsche Palm Springs is the result. We had to rethink everything, from the layout to the link between digital and analog, but I think we have created a lively space that inspires Porsche passion for enthusiasts and customers alike.
Tell us about the new design.
Blue: Porsche wanted to build something that did not just "compete" with other dealerships, but rather one which can be compared to a Four Seasons Hotel, Hermès boutique, Apple Store or anything which represents the best of the best. The idea is to take customers through a Porsche journey -- step onto the road and immerse oneself into the brand's DNA, from past to present to future, through distinct environments that reflect and celebrate each model offering.
What's the biggest difference with traditional dealerships?
Blue: This facility is truly a destination. This is a dealership where one can purchase, be serviced, and also soak up the entire Porsche brand experience in a way that currently does not exist for automotive retail. For example, one can walk along a bridge which connects two different sections of the second floor: It is reminiscent of the conveyor system which transports Porsche bodies overhead across the street, in Stuttgart, Germany, to final assembly. A visit to the fitting lounge allows Porsche fans to experience endless possibilities of vehicle configuration and customization. Once built, a customer will have a new Porsche that is unique and authentic.
What visual cues make it recognizable as a Porsche dealership?
Zellmer: Customers can always recognize a Porsche dealership, because the architecture is evolutionary -- just like the look of our cars. The aluminum façade, for example, has been there since the beginning, but the louvered panels with the added lighting now resemble the rear line of our iconic 911.
How are the new dealerships being rolled out?
Zellmer: This is a global architecture, and we are excited to see it in the market. We have 191 dealerships in the U.S. alone, and they won't all just flick a switch at one time to make these changes. The rollout will happen gradually as the time comes for an upgrade, and at that point Destination Porsche will be the design of choice.
Those race viewing parties sound fun!
Blue: We are strong proponents that customers want to shop and experience brands beyond their home computer screens. However, we cannot underestimate how much people love technology. Because of this, we invested in the most advanced in-store technology in the world -- especially for retail automotive. Viewing parties will provide our guests with something which reflects an experience that is more Disneyland than "car dealership." Whether it's Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona or a classic car show, we have combined virtual reality, audio, video to allow guests a world which immerses them into all things Porsche.
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