Porsche adds a touch of the Nürburgring to its Atlanta track

Marketing

Porsche will invest more than $50 million to build a second driving track at its Atlanta Experience Center — one of two U.S. performance track centers that retailers say are helping connect consumers with the Porsche brand.

The new 1.3-mile circuit, which will open in the first quarter of 2023, will be connected to the current 1.6-mile driver development track.

Dealers say the experience centers are helping them build customer loyalty and sell cars.

The planned expansion is the cornerstone of a 33-acre multimillion-dollar development at the Porsche Cars North America headquarters campus next to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that includes a 20,815-square-foot service center and a classic factory restoration center.

“The physical connection a driver enjoys with our sports cars is core to the Porsche brand, which is why we’re expanding this option even as we and our dealers invest in new digital touch points for customers,” Porsche Cars North America CEO Kjell Gruner noted. “The two worlds — digital and real — complement each other.”

For Porsche enthusiasts, the brand’s nine global experience centers are like Disneyland. Porsche’s other U.S. experience center is in Los Angeles. The sites offer a cultural immersion into the brand and give visitors a rare chance to push Porsche models to their limits.

The centers are anchored by a driver development track where visitors drive their favorite Porsche model coached by a professional driver. The centers also offer other features, such as a classic sports car display, a racing simulator lab, a customization studio and a restaurant.

Ryan Kirchner, new-car manager at Porsche of The Main Line in Newtown Square, Pa., calls the centers an “excitement builder.”

“Nothing like the track gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline flowing,” Kirchner said.

“Porsches are designed for racetracks, but not everybody has a racetrack in their backyard. So having a place that somebody can go to get that experience and the instruction to go with it, opens up a whole new view of the brand and the capabilities of the car.”

Before the pandemic began, the Atlanta facility hosted on average more than 6,400 visitors a month.

“We do a lot of charity event sponsorships and when there are raffles or silent auctions for those we will often include gift certificates to the Experience Centers,” Kirchner said. “It’s a great way to get people from those events to experience the Porsche brand.”

Cars are not sold directly from the U.S. centers, but both U.S. locations play host to the automaker’s New Vehicle Delivery program, where owners are treated to a white-glove reveal, gourmet lunch and a track experience.

Porsche is “booking so much business out of those places,” said a Porsche retailer who requested that he not be identified.

“As a dealer, I can’t book anything but a GT car to take delivery at a PEC right now.”

The new track will feature elements inspired by iconic driving environments, such as the plunging Corkscrew turn at California’s Raceway Laguna Seca, the steeply banked Karussell (Carousel) corner at Germany’s Nürburgring-Nordschleife and the curves of the Great Smoky Mountains’ Tail of the Dragon.

The addition will feature three new driving conditions: a low-friction, wetted 60-meter asphalt circle; an ice hill with a wet and slick surface along with a hill to demonstrate traction control; and a long stretch of asphalt to demonstrate handling capabilities.

“The different driver-development modules on the track are where the thrill of a Porsche comes to life physically,” said Porsche’s North American marketing chief Pedro Mota. “Where you can touch and feel the dynamics and engineering that make every Porsche a sports car.”

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