Porsche boosts top SUV with big screen to counter trade risk

Porsche has sold over 350,000 Macans since 2014. (Bloomberg pic)

SHANGHAI: Porsche is making its best-selling model more comfortable with a larger touchscreen, voice controls, and self-driving features, upgrades that could help boost its customer appeal as the German sports-car brand braces for a potential sales-sapping trade war.

With US President Donald Trump threatening to levy tariffs on cars imported from Europe, Porsche will equip the Macan sport utility vehicle with a 28-centimetre high-definition screen, 10 centimetres larger than the current version, the company said at an unveiling on Wednesday in Shanghai. The enhancements to the model, which will be sold for a minimum of US$47,800 (RM193,800) in the US, will be rolled out in the course of this year.

Porsche makes all its vehicles in Europe, exposing the Volkswagen AG brand to the full brunt of Trump’s potential tariffs. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström are due to meet with Trump in Washington on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to avoid an all-out trade war.

The new creature comforts include an ioniser to improve air quality, real-time traffic information, and a function that assists with steering, braking, and acceleration in stop-and-go traffic. Porsche has sold more than 350,000 Macans since the Macan’s introduction in 2014. It’s the bestselling model in all major sales regions, including China and the US, its two main markets.

Porsche has resisted adding production outside Europe because German engineering is part of the cachet that supports some of the highest profit margins in the auto industry. While Porsche is in the throes of Europe-US trade tensions, China’s move to lower import tariffs is good news for the brand.

China’s luxury-car market has faced pressure due to a weakening yuan that’s made it costlier to buy imports. Consumers also delayed purchases amid uncertainty over pricing after China cut its auto import tariff to 15% from 25%, and raised the rate on imports from the US to 40%. Deliveries of Porsche cars in China declined 7% in the first half of this year to 33,363 units.

As new rivals enter the auto industry and changing technology intensifies competition, Porsche is seeking to step up the pace in adding features to entice buyers.

“If you want to be successful as a global player in the car industry in the future, especially at a time when the world is changing so fast, the key success factor is not to be big but to be fast,” Detlev von Platen, Porsche’s sales chief, told reporters in Shanghai.