Having customers drive their old vehicles around for years and years would be a problem for some car brands. For Porsche Cars North America, it's a potential new gold mine.
More than 70 percent of all Porsches ever built are still being driven today. But the vast majority of the more than 200,000 classic cars in the U.S. — nearly twice as many as in Germany — are serviced by independent repair shops. Porsche now hopes to bring some of that business into its dealer network by expanding its Porsche Classic operations.
The network has 10 Porsche Classic dealers in the U.S., specializing in the maintenance and repair of the old cars. The stores can also perform factory-sanctioned restorations, augmenting Porsche's restoration centers in Atlanta and Stuttgart.
Porsche wants to enlist more of its 190 U.S. dealers to be part of the program. Porsche Cars North America CEO Klaus Zellmer declined to say how many would be needed to adequately serve the growing business.
"What I can tell you is, I think there needs to be a lot more," the CEO said. "Strategically speaking, we need to ramp up our game because that's a business field where we can still grow."
10 percent annual growth
Despite the low participation, in less than four years, Porsche Classic has become the luxury sports car maker's fastest-growing business in the U.S., growing at a 10 percent annual clip, according to Zellmer.
"The business here in the States is growing at a much higher rate than anything else we do at the moment," Zellmer told Automotive News. "There's a lot of work that we need to do here in the United States in order to take care of those wonderful pieces of art."
The business supplies more than 52,000 genuine parts to dealers and independent repair shops to keep those cars on the road. About 300 new and previously discontinued parts are added to the Classic catalog each year.
A Porsche model is considered a classic 10 years after series production ends.
Classic customers need vehicle services, too, adds Bucky Melvin, Classic business manager for Porsche Cars, and that is an added opportunity for retailers. "If they have a body shop and want to do full restorations, they can advertise."
Becoming a Classic dealer requires enthusiasm, competence and deep pockets.
The factory considers several factors in approving a Classic dealer, including the size and age of the showroom, the store's demographics, the quality of its technicians and the volume of cars that go through the service department.
"It's a thorough vetting process based on multiple criteria," Melvin said. "Many things are considered including their Classic passion and their history servicing their Classic community."
Classic partners must invest between $65,000 to $85,000 in a Classic Corner in the showroom. The store must have a classic Porsche on display, host at least two Classic customer events annually, and send technicians and service advisers for periodic training.
"We want customers to immediately realize, when they step into the showroom, 'This is a Classic partner,' " Zellmer said. "There's a certain footprint that we require. It's like a shop-in-shop system."
Being a Classic dealer bestows a halo effect on the dealership and opens doors to new business.
It's also a way of engaging existing customers and introducing them to classic cars, Melvin said. A Panamera owner who is in the dealership for service might notice the 993 on display and become curious about heritage Porsches.
‘Open our Porsche tent'
Gary Ackerman, owner of Gaudin Porsche of Las Vegas, became a Classic dealer three years ago. Ackerman is a third-generation auto dealer who owns a collection of about 20 Porsche classics, including a 1964 911 and a 1975 911 Turbo.
"I loved the brand, the product, and the history," said Ackerman, who bought the Porsche dealership in the mid-1980s.
The Classic business "allows us to open our Porsche tent to people who are absolute Porsche purists," Ackerman said. "I want those people to understand that Porsche today still values them."
Ackerman said he is in talks with vendors in the independent repair and restoration business about forming joint ventures to broaden the service base of Porsche Classic.
"The more we can say yes to somebody who is running around with a car with a Porsche crest on it, the better off we are all going to be," Ackerman said.
Porsche also acknowledges that additional revenue from the Classic business could provide a hedge against an expected decline in service as electrification expands across the industry. Porsche is preparing to invest more than $6.5 billion on vehicle electrification by 2022. Electric vehicles require less maintenance than internal combustion engine- powered vehicles.