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Critics scoffed, but Panamera has scored

Automotive News reports on the sales success of the Porsche Panamera.

Porsche Panamera
Porsche says the Panamera brought new customers to the brand.
Porsche Panamera
Porsche says the Panamera brought new customers to the brand. Porsche

After 18 months on the market, Porsche's controversial Panamera sedan is exceeding sales targets and bringing new customers to the brand, says Michael Bartsch, COO of Porsche Cars North America.

Porsche's first four-door car went on sale in October 2009 in the middle of an industrywide sales slump. The Panamera took a few shots at the time of its launch. Some buff-book critics called the styling bulbous and awkward and predicted that the high-priced sedan would have a tough time in the throes of a recession.

Porsche initially forecast sales of 450 Panameras a month in the United States, or about 5,400 cars a year. But last year Porsche sold 7,741 Panameras--almost a third of Porsche's U.S. total sales--and the car still is selling at a monthly rate of about 600 units. Sales are expected to top 7,200 this year, says Bartsch.

"Typically after a year you see sales reach a more normal level when a new Porsche comes out," says Jerry Nelson owner of Schneider + Nelson Porsche in West Long Branch, N.J. "The Panamera has continued at virtually the same numbers."

Bartsch says the unusual look sets it apart from many luxury sedans.

"It is a new approach for a segment that was pretty stale and unimaginative over the last decade," Bartsch says. "It has been a very controversial car with a cutting-edge design that a lot of people will start copying."

He says the Panamera has brought Porsche new customers. Nearly 80 percent of Panamera buyers are new to the brand, and most are coming from competing luxury-car makers. He says 48 percent of conquest buyers are trading in a Lexus, 27 percent a Mercedes-Benz, and 19 percent a BMW.

Meanwhile, buyers are piling on the options, Bartsch says. He says the average transaction price for the lowest-price Panamera-- the 3.6-liter V-6 with a base price of $75,375, including shipping--is $84,000.

Since the Panamera went on sale, dealer profitability has increased from break-even to an average return on sales of 2.7 percent at the end of 2010.

"Panamera was a significant contributor," says Bartsch. "It helped recession-proof the dealerships."

(Source: Automotive News)