Back in 2000?

Back in 2000?

Looking at the automotive market figures, one could easily think we have traveled in time, 12 years ago

In 2000 - the worst year in the recent history of our market in Romania – the manufacturers and importers sold around 80,000 cars.

Recent forecasts indicate that we won’t match even that figure in 2012, as only 78,000 cars will be sold by the yearend.

Compared to the golden year 2007, the drop is huge. Over 350,000 new cars were sold in Romania in that boom year, and around 312,000 the year after that, while 2009 brought an unexpected and shocking drop of over 50%. And now, three years later, we stand at half of half…

With such figures, the future of the automobile business looks rather bleak. However, we need to keep things in perspective. Where were we really back in 2000?

Back then, Porsche Holding had just come to Romania. The market was dominated by local manufacturers - mainly Dacia. Most of the “foreign” cars you could see on the streets were, in fact, locally produced Daewoo Cielo, Tico, Matiz and a few Esperos, riding along with the old and dusty Dacia 1310 or Oltcit… The import market accounted for no more than 7% of the total sales! Not surprising, though, since import taxes and duties went as high as 50% of the retail price…
The challenges we were facing back then may seem unconceivable now – even some of those who lived them no longer remember them, but they were real. Trivial things, petty things, such as registering a firm in Romania or obtaining a company stamp were so time consuming that they didn’t leave space for real business decisions.

Ten years ago, when we broke the ground for what was soon to become our best performing dealership and one of the best in the entire region - Porsche Bucuresti Nord – there was nothing surrounding the land we had bought in Pipera. No buildings, no warehouses, only a sheep herd across the street. Now, this northern part of Bucharest is a landmark for office space.

I have always admired the vision and the courage of the members of the Porsche and Piech families, who came to the inauguration of the construction site and who were able to see beyond the 30,000 sqm of barren land that stood before them. Porsche Bucuresti Nord sold over the years, more than 32,000 cars – 27,000 Volkswagen, 4,000 Audi and 1,000 Porsche.

Now, in the bleakest year since 2008, we are about to complete a new investment, of 15 million EUR, a new showroom that will join Porsche Bucuresti Nord in the same Pipera area. There’s an old feeling coming back to me, yet the feeling is different.

Despite the harshness of the financial results, 2012 is different. Our challenges today are definitely different, our business agenda is different, our objectives and benchmarks are different but we also have added experience, confidence and maturity on our side. Even our roads look a lot better - although we still complain; our staff is better trained, the market is more complex and the buyers more sophisticated.

Back in 2000 we had little experience and small expectations, whereas today we are well aware of the good things worth fighting for – if we focus and put our energy and mind to it, we might even remember how to win them back. And we have no excuse if we don’t.

We might be looking at the same figures as those of 2000, but, as business people, we should see things differently. And even if it seems like there is no place for improvement tomorrow, or next year, I’m sure that if we look back in, let’s say, 12 years time, we will be able to say, once again: we have come such a long way!