Porsche Motorsport North America is “more robust” to weather the projected economic storm from the coronavirus pandemic according to its President and CEO Dr. Daniel Armbruster, who says the company’s focus on customer racing will play to its benefit.
The wholly owned California-based subsidy of Porsche AG serves as the exclusive sales, parts and service provider for Porsche race cars in the U.S. and Canada, which has seen gains in recent years under Armbruster’s leadership.
The former motorsport quality control manager, who also led the development of the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid, said he took proactive measures for a potential economic downturn shortly after he joined PMNA in 2017.
“I think you prepare your company in good times. We started that two years ago,” Armbruster told Sportscar365. “A year [after I joined PMNA] I started to make changes in the process of the company.
“What business interests do we have? What our core processes? Where do we create money or lose money or where do we have costs that we have a margin?
“We work all the time to optimize the revenue stream to be more efficient in generating revenue and looking for different business areas as well.
“If you have different business areas and not just focus on one sector, this is much more robust.
“With the coronavirus, everyone’s been saying about a ‘black swan’ situation; it’s an unforeseen event and we’ve arrived in a difficult situation.
“I knew something [like this] would happen and we would have a downturn in the economy. But we did our homework during the good times and I feel quite confident for the future.”
Armbruster said its customer racing approach will keep the business sustainable.
That mantra was instilled during the legacy of Dr. Wendelin Wiedeking, who served as Porsche AG’s CEO when Armbruster first joined the company in 2000, initially in a management role within the Carrera GT product line.
“[Wendelin] said, ‘You can go racing as long as you don’t burn money.’ That was the foundation of customer racing,” Armbruster said.
“With customer racing, we have to run it as a business. If there is a business, then it’s sustainable.
“I’m responsible for customer racing so that means looking for a business case. As long as every business partner is doing good business then it is sustainable for the future.”
Armbruster said he fears other manufacturers currently involved in top-level sports car racing may face challenges in maintaining its current programs, which he believes are largely funded out of their marketing departments.
“In these times marketing money will be reduced and the first way to save the money is in motorsports,” he said.
“My fear is that we will experience this next year, and already this year if we are allowed to go back racing.
“We won’t see that many cars on the grid but what we will see will be well-funded customers with our business partners.”
Lower Grids Expected in Challenge, Trophy Series
While not expecting to impact Porsche’s customers at the top of its pyramid, in both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and GT World Challenge America powered by AWS, Armbruster said he could see a drop in participation in some of Porsche’s single-make series, at least in the short-term.
It could potentially impact the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, which was slated to have a 22-car grid for its scheduled season-opener in St. Pete prior to the event’s cancelation.
“In GTD for example, these are multimillionaires but on the levels below these are wealthy business guys,” Armbruster explained.
“As you know in today’s situation the last crash was more a financial crisis, but now it’s a real economic [situation] and the unemployment rate is skyrocketing and businesses are closing.
“Some of our customers have businesses and we will lose some of these guys for sure because they have to take care for their business first and then they can probably come back racing once again.
“But even in bad times, a business guy is seeking to escape out of the bad news and uses racing as a means. He could relax and then he’s much stronger when he goes back to his business.
“There’s a lot of individual stories and individual ways to [cope] in a crisis. But my personal thought is that we will see a drop in car count.”