Torque (Singapore) - - NEWS - STORY JEREMY CHUA

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.


Fran­cis’ favourite 911 model is the 993, which is highly sought-af­ter by col­lec­tors to­day.

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