Dr. Manfred Bräunl, Chief Executive Officer at Porsche Middle East & Africa FZE, speaks about the automotive market in the region
We got the opportunity to interview Manfred Bräunl who assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer at Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE, earlier this year. Prior to this, he worked as the Vice President Marketing at Porsche China Motors prior to which he served senior management positions for various automotive giants. With decades of worldwide experience in marketing and sales for premium automotive manufacturers, he is set to strengthen the position of Porsche in the region. In this exclusive interview, we find out exciting things to look forward to and what we can expect from Porsche in the upcoming future.
How long have you been in the automotive industry? And how did you start?
I have worked in the automotive industry for premium and performance brands since I graduated from university, with my experiences to-date comprising of living in Germany, Italy, Canada, China and now the UAE.
I have a genuine passion for sports cars and can trace my interest in them back to when I was a teenager, watching races at the Hockenheim and Nuerburgring tracks which were close to my home in Germany. I became fascinated with both the technology that went into these racing machines, as well as the expertise of the people in the industry.
In 2018, Porsche sold 4% more cars than in 2017. What do you think contributed to those sales?
The fact that Porsche delivered more than 256,000 cars in the same year it celebrated 70 years as a manufacturer of sports cars, is a testament to how the brand has grown from strength-to-strength
on a global scale. Last year’s increase can be attributed to a range
of factors, including the double-digit growth in sales of the Panamera, Cayenne and the continued popularity of our brand icon the; 911. We also achieved impressive growth in large markets such as China and the USA.
Let’s talk about Porsche’s upcoming full-electric Taycan model. What should we expect?
The Taycan is based on Porsche fundamentals of sporty design and undeniable performance. As our first all-electric offering to customers, you can expect this car to look and feel like a Porsche. It will accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 3.5 seconds, and offer a range of up to 500 km on a single charge. It will be a game changer. We have already seen overwhelming interest in the Taycan around the world, and when we recently took the concept car on a tour across the middle east, you could see that people were genuinely fascinated by it.
Will we see all Porsche models go full-electric in the future? or will some stay purebred like the 911?
Electrification will certainly play a key role in our model mix going forward. For example, in follow-up to the Taycan, we are already planning a production version of the Mission E Cross Turismo concept study which will be Porsche’s second all-electric vehicle. We have also confirmed that the next generation of our compact SUV, the Macan, will come to market as a BEV.
However, at Porsche evolution will always have an authentic link to the brand’s history. Porsche is and always will remain a manufacturer of premium sports cars, with the pleasure of driving at the very core of its mission. As such, our strategy will be to continue with a three-pronged approach, which incorporates optimised combustion engines, plug-in hybrid models and purely electric sports cars – all in typical Porsche style and design language.
What is your opinion on autonomous driving? and will we see those in future Porsche models?
There are many interpretations of autonomous driving, including a vehicle independently operating itself, with individuals sat inside not having access to a steering wheel or pedals. We know that Porsche customers currently value the driving experience, and most of them buy our sports cars because they want to experience the performance first-hand. As such, our focus is to provide solutions that meet our customer’s needs, comfort and safety through a host of assistance systems some of which we already offer, such as; Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist and Night View Assist.
We will however continue to closely monitor how customer needs change over time, because when combined with our objective of evolving the sports cars, the outcome is that Porsche will always work on new ways to take our vehicles to the next level.
Do you think that as a brand, Porsche could produce more models than before? Or will it stick to its current lineup?
Our recent developments in the area of all electric sports cars will naturally result in the growth our model line, however in typical Porsche approach, the customer is always at the heart of every business decision. Therefore, our model lines will always be in accordance to the wants and needs of our
enthusiasts. The new Cayenne Coupe for example is a great case study for how Porsche identifies and responds to feedback, which in this instance was a requirement for an even sportier approach to the brand’s flagship SUV range. Arriving in the third quarter of this year, we expect that the model will be well received in this region.
What can we expect from Porsche Middle East in the next 5 years?
Over the next few years Porsche’s E-Performance strategy is a major point of focus for us in the region and our aim will be to bring it to life across a range of platforms, a process that has already started.
For example our motorsports activities, will see Porsche’s debut in Formula E, with a weekend of racing in Saudi Arabia. This will form a big part of our story in the Middle East as we will use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the brand’s EV credentials and highlight the upcoming arrival of the Taycan across the region in 2020.
Ahead of the Taycan’s arrival, we will also start to roll-out educational campaigns that inform customers about ownership of hybrid and electric Porsche sports car in the Middle East. This will help them understand the benefits and see that the technology is no longer just a futuristic concept but a reality now. We will also continue to enhance the customer experience overall across our dealerships and service centres, with 16 projects currently underway across the markets we cover.
What is happening in the sports car market right now? Is the Middle East becoming more or less important?
There is a strong sports car culture in the Middle East, something that is evident on roads across the region. Our customers here are a mix of passionate sports car fans and discerning individuals, with an understanding of premium quality. As such, we will continue to meet their needs with the launch of new exciting sports cars, unique brand experiences and offering After Sales support that enhances their ownership journey.
We’ve seen the upcoming 2020 911 GT3 mule running around the Nurburgring. What kind of lap times should we expect?
All I can say is that at Porsche we are never complacent. Our Engineers and Designers work tirelessly to ensure that whichever model we launch and offer to our loyal base of enthusiasts, is the best it can be, whether it’s a two-door or four door sports car.
Do you have a personal favourite Porsche model and if so what makes this particular model stand out?
My personal favourite without a doubt is the 911 Targa, because it features a truly unique design, combined with impressive performance. As a member of our most iconic model line, the Targa is a great demonstration of Porsche DNA. Being born in the same year that the first 911 was introduced at the Frankfurt motorshow, also means that the model will always hold sentimental value for me.