t’Serstevens: ‘we sell a Porsche every two hours in Belgium’
The first half of the year, Porsche progressed with 6% in Belgium. Selling 3.500 sports cars a year, D’Ieteren is the biggest independent Porsche importer in volume in the world. CEO, Didier t’Serstevens, wants to improve these figures further and looks at electrification to succeed.
Didier t’Serstevens has already spent a while at VW Group car importer D’Ieteren, leading first the importation of Skoda and after that Audi. Nearly three years ago he moved to Porsche, a special brand, he says, even within the whole Volkswagen Group.
How to explain this success: proportionally there are more Porsches in Belgium than in any other country in the world, except for Monaco and maybe Germany. “The latest success is surely due to the SUV segment”, says t’Serstevens. “We are progressing well with Macan and Cayenne, two superb vehicles that surprise clients with their performance.”
SUVs, however, are only half of the story because they represent 50% of sales. That means that the other half is realized with 911, 718 (Cayman and Boxster) and Panamera. “It’s because Porsches still make people dream, surely in Belgium.” Porsche is the 25th brand in the sales ranking in Belgium and sells more cars than, for example, Honda or Mitsubishi.
Passion is the key
At Porsche Import they want to cultivate that passion for their cars among (still) a great part of the Belgian public. The car still has to be seen as a means of freedom, as a toy of pleasure and not only as a means of transport, stuck in (too much) traffic.
That’s why the importer is investing a lot in selling experiences to his customers. He organizes driving stages where people can learn what a Porsche really is up to.
“After a day of training, clients exclaim that they are really dazzled about what their Cayenne can do”, says Bernard Van Bellingen, PR manager at Porsche Import. “They learn how to drive on a circuit, what’s the difference between rear and four-wheel drive, and so on.”
People still like driving
The demand for such experiences is growing every day, so Porsche import is increasing the possibilities. Clients can travel to Leipzig, where they have an official FIA circuit and an off road track at their disposal, and they can visit the Porsche factory.
The ultimate is the ‘Ice Experience’: “There you live every second of it”, t’Serstevens tells with enthusiasm. “Whatever they may say, many people still like driving, there is a real expectation for things like this, simply going to the Brussels Motorshow isn’t enough.”
Being at Porsche Import, t’Serstevens has also discovered another part of the Porsche magic: 70% of the Porsches ever sold in Belgium are still around. So every one of the 9 official dealers reserves at least a part of the garage for classic Porsches. “It’s a client who is not in a hurry”, says t’Serstevens. “He wants his car to keep its value and is ready to spend money for this.”
Classic cars need check-ups and reparations and much of this is handwork, but there is also a lively trade. Porsche Import helps sellers and buyers in the process by doing these thorough check-ups where the cost often is shared between them. “When you buy a racing horse, you ask for a veterinary examination and assurance, same story here.”
There has been a big row on the use of Cayenne plug-in hybrids in Belgium about owners just being interested by the tax incentive and never using their car in the way it was meant for. At Porsche they stay convinced that a PHEV is a good intermediate solution and that a majority of their clients uses it properly.
“Many of our ‘hybrid’ clients use their car in the right way. They are caught by the game. If you commute 30 or 40 kilometres, like most people do in Belgium, you can drive a lot purely electric”, says t’Serstevens, experiencing it every day in his Panamera Turbo S eHybrid.
Taycan to sell well
And the future? There’s the Taycan, the full electric Porsche that is going on sale end of next year. t’Serstevens is convinced that it will work: “We want to be the reference with a sporty electric vehicle as well as with our iconic 911”, he adds.
He hopes to sell several hundreds of Taycans in Belgium in 2020 and points out that Tesla, with its Model S and X right in the target group of Taycan, has sold 1.151 cars in Belgium in 2017. You can’t pre-order a Taycan yet, but interest is huge, the boss says. “We think it will become a classic too.”