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Porsche's Panamera starts well, but segment is iffy

Automotive News reports on sales prospects for the Porsche Panamera.

Automotive News

With 983 firm orders at launch, Porsche's new four-door Panamera is breathing life into the brand and will help the company record flat or slightly increased sales this year, said Michael Bartsch, COO of Porsche Cars North America.

"We now have a new level of floor traffic and inquiry, and there is a multiplier effect," Bartsch said in an interview. "This is bringing a level of business back to the dealerships and is allowing them to start the process of recovering."

Porsche's overall sales in the United States were down 32 percent to 14,310 units through September after declining 25 percent in all of 2008 to 26,035 units.

Bartsch expects to receive about 1,200 Panameras in the United States this year, with about 200 kept as demonstrator models. Next year, Porsche plans to produce 20,000 Panameras, and the U.S. market is to get 4,000 to 6,000.

Bartsch won't forecast Panamera sales in the United States in 2010 because of uncertain market conditions.

In 2008, Bartsch said sales of passenger cars that range in price between $80,000 and $100,000 totaled 25,756 units. This year, he said sales in that category will come in at about 19,000.

"This market is still extremely volatile," Bartsch said. "Panamera competes against the Mercedes-Benz S class, BMW 7 series, Audi A8 and the Maserati Quattraporte."

The Panamera went on sale October 17 in the United States. Prices start at $90,775, including shipping. Because the sedan is a first for the brand, Panamera is being advertised on TV--a rarity for Porsche, which normally sticks with print ads, the Internet, and motorsports to promote its high-performance cars.

On October 15, Porsche began airing a TV spot called "Welcome to the Family," as part of a campaign that includes print, Internet, direct mail, and dealer promotions.

In addition to the advertising campaign, 197 of Porsche's 202 dealers are launching the Panamera with lavish parties, often partnering with upscale retailers or magazines.

(Source: Automotive News)