BAKER’S TOUCH

by LILLA FOLSOM

The grand opening event had it all: valet service, photos on the red carpet, pretty people chatting over cocktails and heavy hors d’oeuvres, all while the electric violinist swayed on stage. It was great accessorizing, but the real star of the night was the sleek, contemporary jewel box that is the new Porsche showplace on Savannah Highway. The jewels laid out for your pleasure were neon-lit Porsches.

From the building’s brushed stainless exterior to the classic 1959 356A coupe holding pride of place on the showroom floor, Tommy Baker, owner of the high-end dealerships stretching on either side, is dedicated to making sure this sales center stands out in a crowd. In the 20,000 square feet of precision and elegance, Porsche’s attention to detail is evident in the selection of every tile, color and piece of furniture.

Its goal is a streamlined experience. If you visit the service department in Charleston, Porsche wants you to feel comfortably at home. There is even ample parking right out front. Similar to a group of private clubs, there’s a concierge to assist you upon entering and even a café, where you can sip a coffee and watch the technicians as they tend to your vehicle.

Their spotless work area is designed to impress. It may be the “blood and guts” part of the operation, but it looks more like the sterile environment of a futuristic medical unit. Tommy Baker has a right to be proud. “Technical expertise is critical, and we are the only dealership in the United States with four Gold Tech certified technicians under one roof,” he says. Your relationship with the service advisors and the technicians translates into an incredible service experience, and that is exactly what Baker wants.

The fitting lounge is another facet of the Porsche experience. Unlike most brands, Porsche can hand you a blank slate and let you build your dream car. Baker explains that the car is an extension of the customer’s personality, and the design studio allows each vehicle to be customized to reflect their tastes. “You can even design the car here and pick it up in the factory in Germany, test it on their roads, drive it to the ship, and it can be waiting for you when you arrive back home,” Baker says.

The overall Porsche customer experience, in addition to the quality product, is what truly sets the brand apart. Porsche is cognizant of the allure of the hard to get and much sought-after vehicle. The company imported around 57,000 vehicles into the United States last year—that’s for all of its lines and models. Porsche is laser-focused on the quality of its vehicles, the ownership experience, and maintaining the value of its clients’ investments. This business model ensures the brand value in a market that is not known for exclusivity.

A classic embraces change, and there are major changes coming to the fleet. Most notable is the 992, the eighth-generation redesign of the long-cherished 911, with its 13-plus variants, which is coming in late summer. The Macan major refresh hit the market in the spring, but the big news that caught many by surprise is the Taycan, the new all-electric car set to debut late this year. Originally titled Mission E, Porsche posited: “What do we think of today when we think of tomorrow? About the sports car of the future, of course. And also about sustainable mobility. About digitalization. And, last but not least, about all the enthusiasts who are eagerly looking forward to what lies ahead.”

“What we know is that the release will be very limited at first. We also know that the car will have more than a 300- mile range and can charge 80 percent of its charging capacity in 15 minutes,” says James Marino, Porsche Charleston’s general sales manager. That’s about the limit of cold, hard facts. “We have a prototype design, but we know that there won’t be suicide doors and that other design elements, like the headlights, may also be altered,” Marino continues. “We’ve never had a situation where we don’t know which version will be available and at what price, but people still want it. We already have a significant number of customers on the list in Charleston.”

Porsche decided to handle this release differently. Once you deposit $2,500, your name is added to the list. The factory will communicate directly with the customers just as it does the dealer, so there will be no miscommunication.

“There’s some cool technology,” Marino adds. “I remember reading about combat jets where pilots can use their eyes to control systems. This car can be controlled by eye-tracking technology. You choose a menu and decide what you want with eye movement.”

Futuristic technology, 600 horsepower, zero to 60 in 3.5 seconds, top speed of 155 mph, all wrapped up in a stunning, sexy package—now that’s innovation. My only question is, how will they duplicate the trademark throaty roar of a Porsche engine in an electric car? We’ll have to wait to find out!