MANAGING DIRECTOR STUTTGART AUTO
THE key to success in the motor trade isn’t just about selling great cars. Ask any industry veteran and he will tell you that a dealership’s continued success depends on how good its aftersales service is. Nobody is more aware of this than Francis Lee, managing director of Stuttgart Auto, Porsche’s sole authorised dealer in Singapore.
After all, the 58-year-old, who joined Stuttgart Auto in 2001, has a strong background in aftersales.
Francis’ career in the motor trade began in the 1980s at Performance Motors, where he had a role in handling spare parts. In 1986, he moved to Brunei, where he worked for Performance Company and helped grow its spare parts business by over 100 percent.
After leaving the firm in 1993, Francis stayed on in Brunei and worked for QAF Auto.
Prior to Francis’ appointment as managing director at Stuttgart Auto, he held the role of After Sales Manager, and General Manager as well.
Francis speaks to Torque about how he has grown the Porsche brand in Singapore, and tells us how Stuttgart Auto has all but eliminated the competition from parallel importers.
Porsche is a partner of the WTA Finals. Why the partnership with tennis, of all sports?
Porsche and sports have a shared DNA. There is common ground with regard to speed and precision. Porsche has gone from sponsoring to partnering the event. A sponsorship is an ad hoc thing. A partnership means you’ll be there for an agreed number of years, until something changes.
The move is aimed at broadening the brand’s appeal among women. Isn’t the brand name enough to attract them?
If that were true, then Porsche wouldn’t need a marketing department. But that is not the case. There is synergy between us and WTA. There are more and more women Porsche owners, and if you ask me, this is a very good way of connecting with current and prospective owners.
Have you considered sponsoring other high-profile events?
I don’t look for other highprofile events. Porsche is a very established brand with a strong following. In my career, I’ve never seen stronger brand loyalty.
I prefer getting closer to the customers and keeping them happy. I don’t just sell you a car. I sell a lifestyle and get you into the family. This has been a very good approach. We have people who start with a Macan before moving on to one of the brand’s mid-engine sports cars. Eventually, we want to get them into a 911. [Laughs]
How do you convince customers to get into a 911 then?
We recently organised an owners’ drive to Ipoh, Malaysia. It was a fourday, three-night drive.
We had over 30 cars, so we split them into convoys according to their vehicle type.
If you’re in the SUV group, once you see an entire line of 911s zooming past you, you will want to be in that convoy.
These are men’s egos, after all. Guys don’t like being overtaken!
Apart from driveaways, what other activities do you undertake to get closer to your Porsche customers?
We also have a quarterly induction programme. We invite new owners for a nice dinner and introduce them to the management team.
This is important as we grow in size and volume. We must try and put a face to the name. A name on a letter doesn’t mean much.
In your view, what’s the best way to sell Porsches?
The best way is to get a prospective buyer into the driver’s seat. You’ll sell the car to yourself. That’s the Porsche philosophy. And seriously, it works!
Our best “salespeople” are actually Porsche owners, who are very passionate about their cars.
You’ve been at Stuttgart Auto for almost two decades. What is it about this job that inspires you?
I wake up every day and think: “Today, I am going to make customers happy”.
I also constantly ponder how to overcome challenges from other brands. Porsche is the only brand here that provides new-car owners with a comprehensive five-year maintenance programme.
Before this was introduced in September 2008, parallel imports made up 33 percent of all new Porsches sold in Singapore.
Today, only 0.15 percent of every 10 Porsches are parallel-imported. I competed with grey-market dealers by providing something they couldn’t.
Is everything included in this maintenance scheme?
Everything is included, except tyres. Owners get a new set of brake pads every year and a set of brake discs every two years.
Unpredictable repair costs on high-performance cars can put buyers off. But if you didn’t have to worry about this, your decision becomes easier.
What’s your favourite Porsche model?
Maybe it has to do with my age, but my current favourite is the Macan. My favourite 911 is the 993, the last air-cooled model.
OUR BEST “SALESPEOPLE” ARE ACTUALLY PORSCHE OWNERS, WHO ARE VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT THEIR CARS.
Francis’ favourite 911 model is the 993, which is highly sought-after by collectors today.