Porsche Digital: Making CX as ‘outstanding’ as its cars

New technologies play a vital role in the iconic carmaker’s entire business, not just the production line.
18 September 2019

Porsche stays ahead with technology with Porsche Innovation Labs. Source: Shutterstock

Car manufacturers are no longer just car manufacturers. Today, they are tech companies, at the forefront of new innovation, uncovering new ways they can gain a competitive market lead while providing customers first-class experiences. 

In the face of dropping global car sales— and despite a near century-long heritage— luxury carmaker Porsche remains a champion of the market because it knows that remaining at the bleeding-edge of technology is crucial to stay ahead. Its newly-announced Taycan EV, for example, is set to “rewrite electric car performance benchmarks.” 

But while the peak of the company’s innovation is born from its production lines— technology plays a central role in the workings of the entire business.

“The Porsche customer experience must be as outstanding as the vehicle itself,” Klaus Zellmer, President, and CEO of Porsche Cars North America said previously. “This quality claim is paramount as part of our transformation from a pure sports car manufacturer to a digitally focussed company.” 

Porsche Innovation Labs

Driving those efforts is Porsche Innovation Labs, an arm of the company where teams of technology and software experts, scientists, startups and partners focus on how Porsche can take innovations from big data, machine learning, cloud technologies, IoT and Industry 4.0, and turn them into practical solutions which can affect the entire business.

Having just opened its second location in the US— Atlanta— this tech and innovation arm division now claims 120 employees across six sites worldwide including Berlin, Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, and its headquarters in Ludwigsburg. 

“At Porsche Digital, we are driven by the question of what will complement our business model in the future and how we can optimally exploit the opportunities offered by digital transformation,” Stefan Zerweck, Porsche Digital COO, told TechHQ

The research, testing, and evaluation of what Zerweck called “future technologies” plays a key role in this arm of the business, with artificial intelligence, blockchain, IoT, and even quantum computing current areas of focus for the team.  

“For this purpose, we have assembled an international, highly-qualified team of technologists, developers and method experts who develop concepts for the use of the technologies and build practical prototypes,” said Zerweck.  

Porsche has set an ambitious digital transformation strategy, called 2025 Plus, and Porsche Digital Labs is currently instrumental in delivering ‘Mission D’, aimed at discovering technologies that especially can enhance processes across the entire business. 

“We want to find out what potential these technologies have for us and our processes, and which business models are possible today and in the future,” said Zerweck.  “[…] we test and implement new value-added models and innovative product offerings in close cooperation with all the company’s divisions.”

Porsche has experimented with AR in vehicle design.

The X-ray view allows the visualization of hidden assemblies such as the drive train or engine. Source: Porsche Digital

That work could entail exploration into new ways to design cars with mixed reality (see image above), partnering with VR companies like Holoride to explore the next generation of in-car entertainment, or ensuring the customer journey is optimized online, for example.

Experimentation is core to the purpose of Porsche Innovation Labs— the group admits its rising to the challenge of developing products for a digital lifestyle that is “partly not yet defined today.”

But the work carried out at its innovation centers is never ‘tech for tech’s sake’. All ideas are evaluated for their real-life value by testing prototypes and getting direct customer feedback as quickly as possible. At the same time, Porsche Digital’s growing global presence means the firm stays abreast of emerging technology trends and new technologies which could be viable for its business— a process of discovery which it calls “worldwide scouting”. 

Open technology

The first aim of the Porsche Innovation Labs is to ensure the carmaker provides an unmatched experience for its customers. But when it comes to innovation, it’s well aware of the benefits of knowledge-sharing— joining up initiatives with developers, startups and innovation hubs around the world. 

“We want to join forces and to enable joint working models, for instance by creating open platforms and APIs, benefiting from open innovation, but also contributing to it,” said Zerweck. 

While this approach is employed across all its processes, it’s used especially in the context of agile working methods, said Zerweck, “where the group can make the best use of an enormous amount of creativity and where the communicative exchange of colleagues and project teams is very important.”