Mohammed Raffa, CEO of SAMACO Automotive, and Dr. Manfred Braeunl, Chief Executive Officer of Porsche Middle East and Africa FZE
- Last year was one of the most challenging for the automotive industry, how was the Porsche business impacted by COVID-19 and the VAT tax increase?
Mohammed Raffa: Last year was definitely a challenge for everyone and I’m sure we will see further effects continuing well through this year. I’m pleased to say that we defied all the odds thanks to our dedicated, hard-working team. We remained in close contact with our customers and launched some important new Sales and After Sales offers to further enhance our product offering in the Kingdom. I’m proud of our achievements which resulted in a 29 per cent sales growth for the year with 953 cars sold. That’s the best result we’ve had in five years and the positive momentum will continue as just shown by our first quarter results with the best new car deliveries in six years.
- These are impressive numbers given the conditions of last year, what’s the secret to achieving these figures despite the obvious challenges?
Mohammed Raffa: Our success is due to a great product range on offer, our strong relationship with Porsche’s regional office in Dubai and loyal customers who continue to enjoy our benchmark two-and four-door sports cars. Through new initiatives such as the new Porsche Service Inclusive Package launched mid-year, we overcame not only the rise in VAT but also the effects of COVID-19. We worked closely with the regional office discussing our plans and ensuring the right product allocation is available when we need it.
Dr. Manfred Braeunl: No doubt, Covid-19 has been difficult but overall, I am pleased to say that as Porsche Middle East and Africa we have managed this challenging year well, thanks to flexible business plans, creative ideas and, above all, the great work by our Porsche partners across the region. We implemented a variety of fast measures such as the “JumPStart” strategy which enabled our partners to ramp up business quickly as soon as lockdowns eased and the result was that it gave us our best ever second half yearly result. The Porsche team in Saudi Arabia under Mohammed Raffa has left no stone unturned and put a solid business plan together that also includes investments in the network for a prosperous future.
- How do you see 2021 panning out? What is your forecasted growth?
Dr. Manfred Braeunl: We remain cautiously optimistic for the region as confidence returns to the global economy in line with the implementation of a vaccine for COVID-19. Just like other industries, we are closely watching developments, but it seems that buyer confidence is returning to the premium luxury car market as we have just reported our best first quarter sales in five years, our best first quarter order intake in six years and our largest quarterly order bank since 2015. I hope that the momentum we gained will continue for months to come.
Mohammed Raffa: We had a strong first quarter performance with the best result since 2015, delivering a total of 285 new cars to customers across the Kingdom. Cayenne and Macan are both highly sought after. We have sold more Macan models in a quarter than ever before and also 911 deliveries were the highest since 2012, clearly showing that two-door sports cars are high demand as the benchmark product in their segment.
- With Sales developing well, do you have any plans to expand the present network?
Mohammed Raffa: I am personally excited about the recent soft opening of the new a state-of-the-art Porsche Centre in Riyadh. It is the region’s first showroom built to Porsche’s new corporate architecture that includes contemporary facades, innovative interior elements and a lot of digitalisation elements. This is the first milestone of a comprehensive expansion plan with the main focus to enhance our After Sales network and if that’s not enough we are also opening new pop-up stores in high traffic locations throughout the Kingdom. It’s this kind of innovative thinking that keeps us excited about what we expect will be a rewarding 2021.
Dr. Manfred Braeunl: Porsche Centre Riyadh is the region’s first Porsche showroom fully designed according to Porsche’s new global Corporate Architecture “Destination Porsche”. The new retail concept, which will be phased in across our region in the years to come, transforms the showroom from a predominately product-centric location into a customer-focused brand experience. I congratulate Mohammed and his team to this new landmark facility which meets changing customer needs.
- Can you share some examples of how you attracted new customers to your business at a time when perhaps not everyone is thinking about new car purchases?
Mohammed Raffa: Customer service and a professional After Sales support is absolutely crucial to our business but was even more so last year. As one of our main initiatives for customers’ peace of mind, we introduced a Porsche Service Inclusive Package for a period of four years and/or 60,000 kilometres covering all routine service requirements, such as oil, filters, brake discs and pads. Further included is a four-year, unlimited mileage Porsche Warranty which covers wear and tear items as per the company’s terms and conditions.
Additionally, the local team is working closely with Porsche Financial Services to offer attractive finance packages for customers wanting to fulfil their dreams of owning a benchmark sports car. We currently propose for instance our Macan models with no interest through our 50-50 finance product.
- What new Porsches can we expect to see being launched in Saudi Arabia this year?
Mohammed Raffa: One thing we know for sure is that it is going to be a busy year. We expect several new exciting products and have just started introducing the latest generation Panamera, offering four-door luxury and best-in-class performance. In the two-door sports car segment, 2021 will also see the arrival of the 911 Turbo Coupé and Cabriolet as well as further additions to the 718 range including a PDK transmission option for the 718 Cayman and Boxster GTS 4.0.
Dr. Manfred Braeunl: We are also particularly excited by the most recent addition to our two-door sports car segment, with the reveal of the track-focused 911 GT3. As an ideal track day and every day supercar, this model has always been a firm favourite in the Middle East. The GT3 is all about emotion and with a 9000 rpm red line from its 510 PS, 4.0-litre, naturally aspirated six-cylinder boxer engine, how can that not bring a smile to your face?
- KSA is a good market for saloons and the new Panamera arrives with a fresh look and more engine options. Are there big expectations for the four-seater in 2021?
Mohammed Raffa: Panamera has long been a staple of the Saudi market and what we’ve done with the new model is turn up the volume by delivering more in every area. There’s more performance, more luxury and better stability from what was already the benchmark for performance four-seat saloons. We have the 630 PS Turbo S that’s new to the family and does 0 to 100 km/h in 3.1 seconds with a 315 km/h top speed while all models feature a new Porsche Communication Management (PCM) which includes wireless Apple® CarPlay, Lane Keeping Assist, adaptive cruise control and Night Vision Assist to name a few features. The 2021 Panamera is a car that focusses equally on the driver and its passengers. The base model starts at an attractive price of 400,350 SAR.
- How important is the Saudi market in the Middle East?
Dr. Manfred Braeunl: The Saudi market is extremely important to us and I am happy to say that we enjoy an excellent relationship with SAMACO Automotive as our trusted importer. The Kingdom was the fastest growing market in the Middle East last year and is our second biggest market in the Middle East and Levant region. To see the commitment from Porsche Saudi Arabia with the investment in new showrooms and service facilities shows the potential for this to grow even further in the years to come.
Mohammed Raffa: We will aim higher. Our strong order intake last year gives us the assurance to know that we are on the right track with our investments. Backed by exciting launches of new models coming and the support of Porsche Middle East, we are sure that KSA will remain a very important market for many years with a prosperous future ahead. Pending a timely recovery from COVID-19, there is a lot to look forward to as the Kingdom welcomes more tourists with cultural and sporting events like the first ever Saudi Arabia Formula One Grand Prix, which will spur buyer confidence along even more.