Porsche’s Atlanta experience center: public test drives in June

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ATLANTA — Beginning in June, potential Porsche buyers can test drive the brand’s cars and crossovers at the company’s new $100 million U.S. headquarters and customer experience center in Atlanta.

Porsche is unveiling the new facility, dubbed One Porsche Drive, today. It is the company’s biggest investment outside of Germany. In addition to putting all of Porsche’s U.S. operations under one roof, the new center gives the brand a place to demonstrate the “smell, touch, feel” of Porsche vehicles, said Porsche Cars North America CEO Detlev von Platen. He expects 30,000 people to visit annually.

“It’s all about the experience,” von Platen told Automotive News. “The visitors who come here will experience a brand and our products in a way they have never done before.”

Custom packages

The center has a 1.6-mile test track and six different driving modules, including a handling circuit, off-road course, low-friction circle and a kick plate that mimics sliding. Visitors will pay from $300 to $750 for driving packages, such as one that allows them to compare the Porsche 911 GT3 against the 911 Turbo.

Porsche also will design custom packages for visitors, who can book the time through a dealer or directly online. Customers will have the option of bringing their own vehicle to the track. They also can have their new vehicle delivered at the center for an additional fee.

Employees began moving into the offices in January. More than 400 will work at the site.

One Porsche Drive is located south of Atlanta’s downtown just a few minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. That location will make it easier for customers from all over the country to get to the facility, von Platen said. A 918 Spyder, Porsche’s $1 million supercar, already was delivered onsite to a customer a week ago, he said.

Events center

The airport proximity suits another purpose of the facility: to be a conference and events center. Beginning this month, Porsche has booked meetings for a variety of companies and other entities, including nonprofit organizations. They can rent meeting rooms or even entire sections of the building, which houses a fine-dining restaurant, café, a museum of classic Porsches and a vehicle restoration center.

Other features include driving simulators, a custom vehicle design studio and what Porsche calls a human performance center: a gym with specialty equipment to evaluate visitors’ fitness levels and trainers to customize nutrition and fitness programs.

Porsche will open a second U.S. experience center outside of Los Angeles in mid-2016. The company also has such tracks in England and Germany and is building one in China.

Fueling growth

Porsche approved the investment in the facility in 2010 when the company’s U.S. sales were just starting to recover from a recessionary plunge. Rebounding from a 2009 low of 19,696, the brand sold 47,007 new vehicles in the U.S. last year. The company should break the 50,000-vehicle mark this year, von Platen said, three years earlier than Porsche’s deadline for that target.

Von Platen and Porsche are betting the investment pays off with more loyal existing customers and sales from new buyers who end up purchasing vehicles after a driving experience at the track.

“We want to have an open space for the public,” he said. “We really believe in the growth of this market.”