Will Porsche Fans Ever Live in a Driverless World? Porsche Says No.

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the subscriber’s location of choice in the Atlanta area.

Still, there are less expensive ways to sample the Porsche driving experience. Through the Porsche Drive program, a two-seat Boxster convertible can be rented for $329 a day—the lowest end of the service’s price range. Before any high school seniors start spinning prom date fantasies, please note: Porsche renters have to be at least 27 years old, produce their passports, and pay a $2,500 security deposit.

Porsche has also created a peer-to-peer rental network, Porsche Host, which helps current owners loan out their cars via a mobile app. And the company is opening up public access to a performance track driving experience that is offered free to Porsche purchasers. Those buyers can choose to receive delivery of their cars at one of the two US Porsche Experience Centers, located in Atlanta and in Carson, CA, near Los Angeles. At the $100 million Atlanta center, new owners get to drive a Porsche on a racing track for 90 minutes, supervised by a professional driving coach. But anyone over 21 with a driver’s license can do that too, for a fee that depends on the Porsche model they choose to drive. For a standard Porsche 911, it’s $500.

The Atlanta center is the headquarters for Porsche Cars North America, the exclusive US importer of Boxster, 911, Cayman, Macan, Cayenne, and Panamera series Porsches. With its driving track, classic car gallery, and other amenities, the center draws visitors into the physical aspect of Porsche-world. But it’s also becoming a hub for the growing virtual side of the experience. Porsche Digital just opened its second US location there, to work on projects including the online customer portal My Porsche and a digital commerce unit that aims to buttress the Porsche reputation as a lifestyle brand.

Porsche owners use My Porsche to make service appointments for their vehicles, track safety updates, and manage the online connections of their cars. But Porsche is also inviting the public to set up their own personal accounts and tap into its digital sales platform, which already includes an online shop. There, Porsche fans can buy high-end goods such as leather driving gloves, sunglasses, beach towels, racing chronograph watches, and a Porsche-shaped computer mouse. Other offerings may include online banking and additional services not directly related to vehicles. The goal, Baral says, is to establish “daily relevance’’ for consumers in the Porsche orbit.

US drivers provide a rich testing ground for the development of new digital features. In 2018, Porsche sold 57,202 cars here, making up 22.3 percent of its global sales. The United States is Porsche’s second-largest market, exceeded only by China. The US Porsche owners’ group, Porsche Club of America, has more than 130,000 members, who display their vehicles at rallies and parades.

Porsche’s innovation strategies are aligned with those of parent company Volkswagen, whose shares trade on European stock exchanges. Volkswagen owns a group of 12 automakers, including Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, and Audi—one of the frontrunners in the race to develop autonomous vehicles. Porsche isn’t saying whether it will eventually incorporate Audi’s self-driving systems into its cars, or tap another supplier.

New business possibilities could open up for Porsche at the point when its vehicles include self-driving capabilities, Baral says. Porsche Digital is looking at the uses people could make of their time in the car when they’re not driving, such as enjoying entertainment via virtual reality systems. “People spend hours in their cars today,’’ Baral says.

Porsche, founded in 1931, is trying to make the most of a legacy car brand that resonates with the aspirations of the early 20th Century: individualism, freedom, upward mobility, exclusivity, human artisanship, and an exhilarating physical experience on the road. At the same time, the company is exploring the profit potential of embracing the advantages of the digital era: mass scale, convenience, flexibility, social connectedness, virtual environments, and a greater inclusiveness.

Such new trends, while disruptive, can also lead to profits. But Porsche still isn’t ready to envision all vehicles being absorbed into company fleets.

“Airbnb disrupted the hospitality industry, but people still want to own houses,’’ Baral says.

Photo courtesy of Porsche

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