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Porsche Cars North America is sticking with what works for the '90s: humor.

The German importer could afford to be haughty in the mid-1980s, when Porsche's U.S. sales peaked at 30,471 units. But sport-utility vehicles have replaced sports cars as a symbol of the value-oriented 1990s. Porsche's U.S. sales plunged to 3,729 units in 1993, the same year the importer brought on Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.

Porsche North American President-CEO Fred Schwab said Goodby was charged with humanizing the brand. Two commercials that broke this spring do just that, lightheartedly spoofing Porsche engineers.

Like three TV spots that broke last fall, the two new commercials currently running on cable and spot TV feature voice-over by actor Patrick Stewart wryly describing the activities of Porsche engineers.

Other changes have included the debut of a hot new 911 Carrera last spring and a decision to get a higher profile by advertising on Fox's NFL games and on the NCAA Final Four basketball coverage.

So far, the approach seems to be working. Porsche's 1994 sales of 5,838 units represented a 56.6% increase over 1993, and in the first five months of 1995, sales are up 25.9%.

Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this story.

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