Porsche to Open Apple-Store-Style “Studios”

Porsche to Open Apple-Store-Style “Studios”

The car buying experience is getting a makeover, modeled after the way we buy phones.

Porsche plans to open a series of “studios” that are not quite dealerships. They will be located in upscale retail areas and display cars and merchandise but lack service departments and lots full of cars to sell.

An Apple Store for Cars

Porsche Cars North America CEO Kjell Gruner told Automotive News they are largely similar to Apple Stores – meant more to help potential buyers gather information than to sell them one specific car on the spot.

The studios may offer coffee and comfortable seating areas and even space for rotating art installations highlighting local artists.

The first is set to open in Portland, Oregon, in early 2022. The company will open “a handful” of others in urban areas over the next few years.

Sales People…Sort Of

The studios will be staffed by “Porsche Pros” trained to act more as sources of information than salespeople. Though, of course, you’ll be able to walk into a studio and order a new Macan with your flat white.

In front of the curtain, Porsche Studios sound much like the stores and “galleries” Tesla uses to sell its electric cars outside of the retail strips traditionally dominated by car dealerships, which are a function of zoning laws more than business plans.

Like Tesla Galleries, but Allowed to Sell Cars  

But there’s one crucial difference behind the curtain — Porsche Studios will still be owned and operated by Porsche dealers, not by the automaker itself. Tesla doesn’t operate a traditional dealership network.

Instead, the company sells cars directly to buyers without a middleman. That approach isn’t legal in every state. That results in the strange circumstance in some states, where Tesla gallery employees can help you choose the car you want but must ask you to step off the premises to order it online because it might break a law for you to do it inside the gallery’s doors.

By asking dealers to open the Studios, Porsche gets around that problem.

A Porsche Dealership for Every Kind of Buyer? 

There is some irony to Porsche pursuing the smallest possible footprint for a car dealership. The brand is famous for its massive Porsche Experience Centers, where buyers can take driving lessons on race tracks and even dine in Porsche-themed restaurants.

Porsche also operates about 190 traditional dealerships in the U.S.

All About a Younger Clientele

Why the Studio approach? Gruner says it’s about attracting younger buyers. “New target groups,” he told AN, “are not willing to drive a long way to the dealership. They say, ‘Be where I am.’ ” Where they are is often fashionable shopping districts inside city centers.

It also reinforces trends we’ve seen in the shopping experience throughout the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic – shoppers are happier buying online, while automakers are less interested in keeping a huge stock of cars to sell and more interested in a build-to-order model.

Which may be reason to watch this trend in the long run. Automakers have historically carried huge inventories of cars to sell. But new car prices have soared throughout 2021 thanks to a shortage of new cars to sell. The average new car in October sold for $46,036 – an increase of more than 12% in just one year. That happened largely because of low inventory.

Increasingly, the sales experience seems to be trending toward a business model built around low inventory. We’ll trust you to do that math on what that means for prices.

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