Porsche is proving it really has no substitute, as the quintessential sportscar brand captures more female drivers and sets one sales record after another.
During the first seven months of 2013, Porsche's sales rose 31%, according to the Automotive News Data Center, the biggest gain for any car brand. Within that performance was Porsche's best July ever, with sales rising 36%. And the automaker is on track to shatter its North American sales record of 35,043 vehicles set last year, which represented a 21% jump from 2011.
The automaker achieved those results in part by expanding its image from a Ferrari-like toy for rich guys to a rugged, expertly engineered workhorse that owners can and should drive every day -- particularly women, who are increasingly buying the Cayenne SUV and Panamera four-door sports sedan.
Over the last two years, the percentage of Porsche's sales to women has nearly doubled, to 15% from 8%, according to the automaker.
Porsche is winning over women in part with its sponsorship of tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, signed as global brand ambassador last year. The automaker's relationship with the telegenic, stylish Ms. Sharapova allows it to engage more "younger females in the brand," said former Porsche spokesman Steve Janisse.
But the biggest factor in Porsche's success is its expansion beyond sportscar enthusiasts, noted Scott Baker, manager-marketing communications for Porsche Cars North America. There have always been consumers who secretly wanted a Porsche, but a sporty two-seater model didn't fit into their lifestyle, he said.
Now, the expanded lineup allows them to experience a Porsche. Instead of buying a Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Lexus SUV, they're putting the kids, dog and groceries into the bigger, more luxurious Cayenne and Panamera models while still getting the feel of a sportscar. Porsche's sales growth "is a direct reflection of us being able to broaden the relevance of this sportscar enthusiasm into other forms," Mr. Baker said. "The brand can be polarizing. It's our job to translate the special sauce, if you will, to new audiences," said Chris Hanley, who heads up the account at Cramer-Krasselt, which retained creative on the brand after a procurement-driven review ended in May. Mr. Hanley said Porsche is now reaping sales rewards from the agency's 2011 marketing effort to position the brand as a durable everyday sportscar. "They're not Italian, delicate, exotic. They're German. They want to be driven every day. They want to be driven all weather, all season."
For example, an image in the agency's "Engineered for magic, every day" campaign shows a mother in a yellow 911 parked in front of a school. The copy reads: "School bus."
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com, credits Porsche's success to its counterintutive approach. When Porsche first rolled out the Cayenne to the U.S. market in 2003, she said enthusiasts hated the idea of the elite sportscar brand seemingly pandering to the masses who wanted crossovers and SUVs. "The purists just said, 'Oh, that's not true Porsche," said Ms. Krebs. "Well, frankly it's the sport utility that kept Porsche going."