“The Taycan is about … being conscious of the environment and the new needs of our customers”

An electric ride

Porsche Japan shifts gears and speeds towards a greener future


November 2020 Investing in Japan / Text by Toby Waters / Photos by Benjamin Parks

While the flying car might still be some years off, the next stage in the evolution of the automobile is well under way. Hybrid and electric cars are becoming more popular, as environmental concerns are increasingly at the front of many consumers’ minds, and manufacturers are trying to adapt to this shift without losing sight of what drivers love most about their vehicles.

One significant challenge to creating an electric sports car is ensuring that it offers the same experience as existing models. But Porsche — a company closely associated with sports cars, racing, and powerful combustion engines — believes that its new all-electric car, the Taycan, is not only greener, but fully preserves the thrill of the drive.

“For many people, Porsche was always defined by its engines, their sound, and the emotions driven by noise,” says Michael Kirsch, president and CEO of Porsche Japan. “There were some doubts about whether we could translate this into the electric era, but when you drive a Taycan, you get that real Porsche feeling.

“It’s like being in love,” he adds. “We can talk about it, but you will only truly understand when you experience it for the first time.”

When developing the Taycan, Porsche also encountered scepticism that an electric car could perform at the same level as a petrol-fuelled sports car. Kirsch acknowledges that there were hurdles to be overcome, but he is confident that the investment the company made has allowed it to replicate, and even improve on, the speed and handling of its iconic sports cars.

“It’s a true and authentic Porsche sports car. Compared with traditional performance cars, it’s actually better in terms of acceleration: you can go from zero to 100 with just a push of the throttle,” he says. “But many electric cars accelerate quickly. What makes the Taycan a sports car is that it can reproduce that power over and over again. And it’s not only fast on the straights, it’s fast on the cornering, too. That’s the difference.”

Creating its first all-electric sports car is an impressive accomplishment, but Porsche sees the Taycan as far more than just a new product to sell to customers. It represents a turning point for the firm in putting the planet, and future generations, first.

“The Taycan is about making a statement. It’s about being conscious of the environment and the new needs of our customers,” Kirsch says. “As a brand, we have invested billions of dollars into moving to a system of electric production, with a very small carbon footprint — and the Taycan is one part of this new system of electromobility at Porsche.

“Also, because energy production in Japan is not quite green yet, when a customer buys this car, we offset that by paying carbon compensation for our customers,” he adds. “That’s the soul of Porsche: when we do something, we do it right.”

Going the extra mile in this way for its Japanese customers demonstrates how important Japan is to the firm. The nation was one of the first markets that Porsche expanded into outside of Europe, and it is now one of the carmaker’s biggest markets in the world, selling over 7,000 cars a year here. But, more than just raw sales numbers, Kirsch is proud of the brand’s presence nationwide.

“Especially in Japan’s big cities, the Porsche car is a common sight on the roads,” he says. “And because of our long history in the country, you can see lots of beautiful old Porsche cars here. A lot of people actually come here just to see them. We call Japan the El Dorado for historical cars.”

Due to the strength of the Porsche brand here, the company chose Ariake in Tokyo as the location for one of its new Porsche NOW pop-up shops. Since it opened in July, residents and visitors to Tokyo have had the chance to experience Porsche up close, without having to leave the city.

“Traditionally, car dealerships need to be outside cities, due to zoning laws,” Kirsch explains. “But we wanted to come a little closer and reach those groups of people who don’t want to leave the city to take a look at a car — including those who don’t even want to buy a car.”

The shop, filled with natural light coming through large glass walls, showcases the Taycan along with a range of Porsche-branded goods, and even VR simulations for visitors. Kirsch sees it becoming a place where people enjoy dropping by as part of their day.

“We’re opening our brand to new groups, as well as giving our current customers something more,” he says. “The feedback has been amazing. People like to come here, even if just for some water or coffee. It’s a cool meeting place. Plus, it’s also an event space. We’ve collaborated with artists, and we’ve collaborated with other brands, such as Hugo Boss. Whenever you come here, there’s something happening, there’s something new.”

The pop-up store will be open until August 2021, but Porsche’s plans extend far beyond that. In addition to opening a Porsche Experience Centre in Chiba next year, the company is carefully preparing for the next evolutionary stages of the automobile and what tomorrow’s customers might need.

“Will we still own cars in the future? What are different ways to approach ownership? Will you still drive the car yourself? How will digitalisation and connectivity come into it?” Kirsch asks. “Porsche comes from racing. Even when we win a race, after we celebrate, we immediately start thinking about how we can do better. We never stop trying to improve.” •

“you can go from zero to 100 with just a push of the throttle”