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70 years Porsche in America – a review

08.10.2020 By Markus Klimesch
70 years Porsche in America – a review

The USA are the largest Porsche market overall. How did that come about?

The love story between Porsche and America is inseparably linked to the name of Max Hoffman. The enthusiasm of the New York car dealer for Porsche sports cars allied with pure sales genius formed the basis for the rapid rise of the brand in the USA.

During the first talks with Hoffman at the Paris Motor Show in autumn 1950, Ferry Porsche mentioned he hoped to sell about five Porsche cars a year in the USA. Hoffman, who had a large dealer and sales network on the East Coast, replied he was not interested in a business deal if he could not sell at least five cars a week in the long term. Negotiations resulted in a contract for the sale of initially 15 units a year.

Porsche and America

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”

In order to make the name of Porsche known among potential customers, Hoffman presented the 356 at his showrooms on Park Avenue and in advertisements, he extolled the car as the “German Automotive Jewel” and “Car for the Connoisseur”. He also drove one of the first 356 models delivered in autumn 1950 to a race in Watkins Glen where the car caused quite a stir. Hoffman handed over another car to the well-known racing driver Briggs Cunningham who was so amazed that he immediately bought the 356.

“Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” was the slogan of American car salesmen, for whom racing successes were a decisive sales argument. As the number of victories increased, the motor sports scene in the USA became more and more enthusiastic for the versatile 356. All this made itself definitely felt in the rising delivery figures at Porsche KG. In 1951, Hoffman imported 32 models of the 356 and then 283 units in the following year. By 1955, the number of deliveries had increased to 1,514 units, more than 50 per cent of total sales.

Even Hollywood stars spread the fame of Porsche

The lightweight version of the car, the 356 Speedster, specially designed for the US market, helped Porsche to achieve the final break-through. 1,033 units of this model were sold in 1955 alone. The secret of Porsche’s success was the public perception of the brand. It was regarded as sporty and unconventional. The 356 quickly became a cult object.

Porsche and America

James Dean

Even Hollywood stars spread the fame of Porsche by showing themselves in public with the German sports car. One of them was James Dean who took part in many races with his 356 Speedster – before he was killed in a tragic accident in a 550 Spyder on a Californian highway on September 30, 1955.

The professional approach.

In 1952, Porsche started to send its own sales staff to the USA to improve service for its customers and dealers. One of the first colleagues was mechanic Herbert Linge. He set up a Porsche workshop on the premises of Max Hoffman and trained both dealers and workshop personnel.

Porsche and America

Exclusive sales network

The commitment of Porsche on the US market was boosted in April 1954 by the posting of Wolfgang Raether who requested more mechanics from Germany. When Raether’s successor, Otto-Erich Filius, arrived on the scene, he opened an official Porsche office in New York in October 1955. In 1955, the Porsche of America Corporation (POAC) was set up as an independent sales network.

In 1963, when the sales figures in the USA were at around 6,000 vehicles a year, Porsche parted from the Hoffman Motor Car Company and acted as importer on its own for the first time. Due to the large influx of customers, the POAC soon moved from New York to Teaneck, New Jersey. The company building there now also housed the new departments of Sales Promotion, Advertising, Training as well as Service Monitoring and Claims Processing.

Porsche and America

At the end of 1969, the POAC was dissolved and its duties were taken over by the Porsche-Audi Division of Volkswagen of America Inc. – with the aim of setting up a new, exclusive sales network for the two German brands.

Uniform standards for the first time

The VW subsidiary, called Porsche Audi Operations, managed 14 wholesalers who in turn were represented by 150 dealerships in the USA. The new negotiated contracts allowed the importer company for the first time to push through uniform standards on the dealers, and this made a significant contribution to raising professionalism.

Porsche Cars North America.

On September 1 in 1984, the Porsche subsidiary Porsche Cars North America (PCNA) was set up. The aim of the sole importer of Porsche sports cars and spare parts was to service the North American market and to independently control sales philosophy and market practice. The home of the new Porsche subsidiary was Reno, Nevada. Another site was set up in Charleston, South Carolina, to service the East Coast. The PCNA, with its roughly 200 employees, serviced 208 authorised dealers and was also responsible for the Canadian market from 1995 onwards.

Supply route for parts arriving from Germany shortened

The Porsche headquarters relocated from Reno to Atlanta, Georgia, on March 1, 1998. The new site offered a better strategic location since flight times to Germany were shorter and there was a smaller time difference. Two years later, the parts warehouse was relocated and split into two centres – Atlanta and Ontario, California. This not only shortened the supply route for parts arriving from Germany but also improved dealership servicing.

Foundation stone for One Porsche Drive

In 2009, the idea originated to build a Porsche headquarters in the USA to unite the key companies under one roof and also create an experience centre for customers and Porsche enthusiasts. Three years later, after 70 alternative sites in three US state were scrutinised during the course of a selection procedure, the foundation stone was laid for One Porsche Drive directly adjacent to Atlanta airport.

Porsche and America
When PCNA, Porsche Financial Services, Porsche Consulting and MHP Management and IT Consulting finally moved in in January 2015, Porsche started a new chapter in its eventful corporate history in North America. Not only did One Porsche Drive become the address of the headquarters in Atlanta, it also became synonymous with the dynamic power which is the hallmark of the company and its over 400 employees.

A second experience centre is currently under construction in the greater Los Angeles region. This building complex called “PEC West” will also be home to the headquarters of Porsche Motorsports North America and include workshops, spare parts warehouse and classic car restoration shop. On the East Coast, PCNA is cooperating with a New York Porsche dealership to build a completely new showroom in Manhattan to provide the market there with better, more brand-specific services.

Porsche Clubs

An important part of the American Porsche history are the customers of the brand and most of all, the Porsche clubs. Their enthusiasm and loyalty have made them into genuine brand ambassadors. With more than 115,000 members, the Porsche Club of America (PCA) is the largest association of Porsche drivers and the largest single brand club in the world. Divided into 13 zones and 143 regions, the PCA offers its members a highly diverse programme relating to Porsche with more than 3,500 events every year.
Porsche and America

An enthusiastic response

The PCA met for the first time on September 13, 1955. Twelve Porsche owners came to the meeting in the US capital of Washington, DC. By January of the following year, the Club had already grown to 190 members. Interest of Porsche owners in the newly founded club organisation was enormous. Porsche drivers from regions outside Washington D.C. were also interested.

The enthusiastic response led to the club expanding nationwide at the beginning of 1956. One of the success factors of the PCA without a doubt was its excellent organisation right from the start. At the first constitutional meeting, resolutions were already adopted concerning the club’s coat of arms and membership fees. Then, in December 1955, the first edition of the club magazine “Porsche Panorama” was published.

Porsche and America

Annual trip to pick up a new Porsche

Shortly after the club was established, close contacts grew between the Zuffenhausen plant and the PCA. On September 28 in 1958, 86 American Porsche Club members travelled on a chartered plane from New York to Stuttgart to take possession of their new cars of type 356 A. Over the following decades, the annual trip to pick up a new Porsche personally at the birthplace of the Stuttgart sports car became a PCA tradition.

In February 1961, the Club had 2,524 members in 46 regional clubs all over the USA. In the ensuing decade, the Club continued to grow. In 1965, the PCA reached a new record with 3,468 members and 59 regional sub-clubs. Ten years after its foundation, it had become the largest Porsche club organisation in the world.

Motorsport in Amerika

Just after World War II, a keen interest arose in racing cars in the USA. This went hand in hand with the gradual rise in the number of amateur races in which the entrants were mainly European makes. For Porsche, which was still a young carmaker at that time, a commitment in the US racing scene was very attractive. Due to the technical competence and practical experience in the scene, it was possible to introduce and test new cars at the place where they would later be raced. The success of a car in a race also had the potential to replace a complete advertising campaign.

Porsche and America

Steve McQueen helped Porsche to become considerably popular

Like James Dean in the 1950s, the US film star Steve McQueen helped Porsche to become considerably popular ten years later. Not only in the USA but also worldwide. McQueen was a full-blooded racing driver through and through. Together with his team colleague Peter Revson, he came second in the overall classification in the 12-hour race in Sebring for Porsche in a 908 in 1970.
Porsche and America
In the same year, he proved his skills many times over and shared his experiences as a racing driver during production of the film classic “Le Mans”. While shooting, McQueen himself sat in the driver’s seat of a 917 during many of the dramatic race scenes.

Porsche ranks number one

In the meantime, racing cars from Zuffenhausen and Weissach have achieved over 30,000 victories worldwide. No other manufacturer has been anywhere as successful – especially in the USA: With 22 overall victories in the 24 hours of Daytona and 18 wins in the 12 hours of Sebring, Porsche ranks number one on the North American continent.

Text and pictures: © 2018 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG

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