As another part of our partner portrait series, we present F1 Automobile from Karlsdorf-Neuthard near Karlsruhe, this time. Carinthian-born Josef Forster has been selling luxury vehicles here for more than 25 years. Why the trained upholsterer ultimately ended up in the automotive trade and what kind of all-inclusive service he can offer his customers, you can read in this edition of the Elferspot partner portrait.
I certainly don’t need to tell you that no one really wants to leave Carinthia. Like Porsche, I was born in the area around Gmünd. But in 1976 I heard a call for help from Germany, which I answered. More precisely, from Nagold in the Black Forest. There, in 1976, I hired on at Rolf Benz, a manufacturer of luxury upholstered furniture. A great company with a great reputation.
In 1977, I initially moved to Mercedes-Benz’s production in Sindelfingen. Five years later, I switched to sales and ventured directly into the “lion’s den”. That’s how Munich was called by Mercedes-Benz employees, as it is BMW’s home town. In 1988, my path led me to BMW as a sales manager. I then chose to be self-employed in 1991, opening a BMW dealership in Karlsruhe. After I sold my shares in it later, I founded F1 Automobile in 1996.
I have always had a trusting relationship with my customers – usually built up over years. That’s why I always found it a pity when a good customer changed brands and I lost him. That’s why I created my own company in 1996 with F1 Automobile and was thus brand-independent.
F1 Automobile as a name was developed by a graphic designer friend based on my name with a corresponding logo. This suggestion was very well received by test customers. Perhaps it had something to do with the Schumi-Mania in Germany in the mid-90s. After all, Michael Schumacher was racing for the world championship with Benetton at the time and later moved to Ferrari.
Of course it did! After we registered the F1 Automobile logo as a trademark, there were of course objections from Formula One Licensing Limited. The latter naturally tried with an armada of lawyers to have the F1 Automobile trademark cancelled again. Since Formula One Licensing had not registered its trademark itself, it was ultimately defeated after a legal dispute that lasted for years.
That’s right. But I had bought a Ferrari Mondial especially for the opening ceremonies of F1 Automobile. I displayed it to attract a bigger audience. It amazed me how much fascination and interest such a Ferrari aroused in people. Only then did I decide to offer sports cars in the future.
The clientele addressed in this particular segment naturally has different requirements in terms of vehicle presentation and appeal. After almost 20 years with German premium manufacturers, I was ideally prepared for this. So I was able to offer a service at a level that was exceptional at that time in the used-car-business. So I became a sports car dealer more or less by chance.
Former German President Roman Herzog once drew a parable that I find rather fitting. He said that he had never applied for anything. He compared his life to a trip down a river on a piece of driftwood. To cut it short: He just let himself drift down the river and as soon as an opportunity arose that interested him, he grabbed it. That’s how I kept it.
Basically, I find it incredibly exciting to see how the individual manufacturers implement innovations differently. Some things are best done by McLaren, for example. In the end, however, Porsche is the best package of all the sports cars. Especially if I intend to use the car often or daily, there are few alternatives to Porsche. You know, it’s not just to do with the quality of the cars themselves, which is known to be extremely good. The dealer and service network as well as spare parts supply are equally excellent, so you never have to fear long downtimes.
In my private life, I actually drive a Porsche Panamera Hybrid. At first I thought this concept was a sham, but I’m now totally enthusiastic about it. A real world fuel consumption of 30 miles per gallon is actually achievable. I can easily drive more than 500 miles on a single tank of fuel!
Until very recently, I also had a Porsche 997.1 Carrera, which I bought new. It was one of the first ever produced. After a few very nice years I sold the car. Another couple of years down the road, its owner then asked me, if I wanted to buy the car back again. I did and had a lot of great experiences in it afterwads.
I am a friend of lean structures. That’s why I source out consistently and have been working successfully with reliable, competent partners for years and can therefore draw on the necessary expertise. Since we offer models from all renowned manufacturers, this is particularly important for us. In addition, a lean structure enables quick decisions. Thus, every customer receives competent answers to all questions at short notice.
I’ll have to elaborate a little on that. During my time in production at Mercedes-Benz, I was trained as a so-called REFA specialist, i.e. a specialist for the optimization of processes. The central questions that were taught – How can I improve something, optimize it or make it more economical? – have shaped my entire life.
Since the 2002 reform of the law of obligations, a general exclusion of warranty is no longer possible for a commercial seller when selling to a consumer. However, especially when selling a used sports car, it becomes increasingly difficult to make a realistic risk assessment with increasing age and mileage. Therefore, the dealer needs a significantly higher trading margin when buying a vehicle in order to be able to cover the possible warranty risks.
Let’s assume that our customer decides to sell a car. The reason is often that he has decided or would like to decide for another vehicle. So first, the existing vehicle should be sold, or a parking space is needed. And if the seller needs neither vehicle nor liquidity, my “REFA-thought” reaches for the best possible marketing.
We take over all formalities from the seller and he can achieve the best possible sales proceeds by using all our expertise and our network. In this type of transaction, we as traders or agents have significantly lower costs and risks than if we buy and sell the cars ourselves. Thus a clearly higher revenue remains with the seller. Since we also achieve a better price than if the seller himself tries to market his vehicle through the various platforms, we usually finance ourselves.
But also the buyer benefits, because he can fall back on our expertise on the vehicle. He buys legally from the previous owner but psychologically from F1 Automobile. Therefore, in our own interest, we will thoroughly check the previous owner’s information about the vehicle. The package is rounded off by our service offer. We offer used car guarantees and can either take his vehicle in payment, or also market it on behalf and thus offer an optimal, trustworthy and discreet handling.
The fact that this “total package” is equally well received by buyers and sellers is shown by our customers’ reviews. We therefore offer this service package from F1 Automobile with the catchy slogan „wir-verkaufen-deinen-sportwagen.de“ under the domain of the same name. It’s German for “we sell your sports car”. That this concept also works in practice is impressively demonstrated by a Ferrari 348 tb, which I have sold six times within 20 years.
In Germany, jealousy is a big issue. That’s one reason why you have to comply with fairly specific insurance requirements for exclusive vehicles. In addition, I had enough customers who would have liked to buy more cars but had no more parking spaces available. That’s why I wanted to relieve the customers at F1 Automobile of this worry and offer an all-inclusive package.
We have created a double-deck parking system that guarantees safe accommodation with video surveillance and an alarm system. In addition, each parking space has its own power outlet. Of course, a simple garage complex would have been cheaper, but it should also be a looker. At the same time, the function is extremely convenient. All users have their own PIN and can pick up, park or swap their vehicle around the clock. This is certainly a kind of unique selling point of F1 Automobile.
When you’ve been in business that long, a lot of stories accumulate. One particular experience was a customer who was interested in buying a TECHART-tuned Porsche 993 Turbo. The gentleman was farsighted, had no glasses with him. On the test drive, where I sat on board, as I do with all customers, he naturally wanted to test the Turbo on the Autobahn. But he couldn’t see the speedometer properly. Therefore, I had to tell him the speed we were going. We got up to almost 175 mph. That was quite adventurous. He bought the 993 Turbo afterwards.
For example, I also love it when younger customers tell me after buying their first sports car that they stood in front of my shop window as a child and squeezed their noses. However, that always makes me realize that I should start thinking about handing the business over to someone else.
(Laughs) Of course! I can very well imagine that there are successful salespeople in the premium segment who would like to take the leap into self-employment. Especially against the backdrop of impending cuts in margins and commissions in connection with e-mobility. I know how hard and tedious it is to establish a new business in the market. Instead of a complete reboot, taking over a well-known brand like F1 Automobile would certainly be an interesting alternative.
© F1 Automobile