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[Herald Interview] Driving luxury race car with everyday usability

Porsche leads imported luxury SUV market in Korea with surge in sales

Porsche Korea CEO Holger Gerrmann poses for a photo at Porsche Studio Cheongdam in Seoul on April 13. Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald
Porsche Korea CEO Holger Gerrmann poses for a photo at Porsche Studio Cheongdam in Seoul on April 13. Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald

South Korea has rapidly become an attractive market for luxury sports car brands in recent years.

Driving the trend is Porsche, with market watchers attributing the German carmaker as having opened the gateway for car enthusiasts here with its diverse models that coalesced its high-end image into individuality.

“We are still a young brand (here). Porsche Korea began business here only seven years ago, we are still fairly new and there’s a lot about the brand that we can show and tell Koreans, like history of the brand,” said Porsche Korea CEO Holger Gerrmann during an interview with The Korea Herald at Porsche Studio Cheongdam on April 13.

The automaker’s new retail platform opened in June last year.

Porsche began selling its cars in Korea since 2005 via its official dealer SSCL.

For Gerrmann, who was named Porsche Korea CEO in September last year, it is his first time to live and represent the office in Asia. He was in Stuttgart, Germany, where he led the Porsche Design Group as chief financial officer, and previously spent nine years in the UK to lead the finance unit.

“We are very happy and humbled by the positive reception from Koreans, the way they accepted the brand,” said Gerrmann.

“(Korean’s) enthusiasm for cars in general, great automotive history and companies that they are proud of -- I think it is a good environment for a car company to work here,” he added.

For two consecutive years, Porsche Korea sold over 4,200 units of cars annually in 2018 and 2019, setting a recording high figure at 4,285 units in 2018.

With its sports utility vehicle model third-generation Cayenne which was launched in January last year in Korea, the automaker was ranked No. 1 as an imported SUV model. As of February this year, an accumulated 2,359 Cayennes have been sold.

Behind such popularity and sales growth, Gerrmann said there was the diversity that Porsche brings with its cars.

“(In terms of diversity,) One is probably the lineup, we have a fairly complete lineup in the market, but also the possibility to choose. You have so many options to choose from, (meaning that) you can really make it your own car, own personal Porsche,” said Gerrmann.

He said that close to 100 percent of customers who purchase Porsche go with their individualized, customized options.

To offer more options here from wide spectrum of lineups, Gerrmann said Porsche Korea will strengthen diversity in the lineup in 2020.

“We just launched Cayenne and Cayenne Coupe, which I think really suit very well with the Korean market. It’s a very good looking sporty car. We will also bring in a plugin hybrid, and also have electric vehicle Taycan coming to the market,” said Gerrmann.

He added that Korea will be the second Asian market to introduce the model, after China where the unveiling event was held in September last year.

For a successful landing of Taycan here, as well as for the company’s future strategy toward electrification of lineups, Porsche Korea has been preparing to set up its own charging stations as well as introducing high performance chargers across the country. Via HPC, Taycan can be fully charged in five minutes for 100-kilometer-long ride.

“I see the (EV infrastructure) developing here. We will install 10 HPCs here, and actually started the first one at E-mart Seongsu. We try to pick convenience locations for customers to access quickly and frequently visit,” said Gerrmann.

He said that Porsche’s HPC will be located at dealership stores across the country, and some 120 chargers at other convenient locations like hotels, restaurants and golf courses, contributing to the EV infra here.

With regard to Porsche Korea’s second car sales business, Porsche Approved, Gerrmann said it opens up the opportunity for customers to experience the brand, such as by coming into the showroom and test drive, through less-expensive but high-quality preowned cars.

“(For brand loyalty,) I think it is the quality of the service and the delivery that we provide. Consistency in what we do for customers, reliability of the product, I think these are much appreciated by the customers,” said Gerrmann.

He added that experiencing Porsche will give conservative customers a thought that there’s actually a great usability in daily life of driving Porsche.

“You can drive a sports car that is very good on the race track, but also take it to pick your kids from school, go shopping in it,” he said.

“Coming back to the history of Porsche, that’s actually what Ferdinand Porsche, who founded the company and gave his name to the car, was looking for -- a car that is very efficient and lightweight, but also good for everyday usability,” Gerrmann added.

By Kim Da-sol (