With 20 years of experience in the automotive industry – accumulated at diff erent automakers that include Citroen, Renault and Porsche – 43-year-old Dieter Knechtel joined Ferrari Far East Hub as its new managing director in April this year.
With 20 years of experience in the automotive industry – accumulated at diff erent automakers that include Citroen, Renault and Porsche – 43-year-old Dieter Knechtel joined Ferrari Far East Hub as its new managing director in April this year. He is responsible for the supercar marque’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region (except Greater China). Born in Vienna, Dieter spent a considerable amount of time overseas, especially in China, where he was Porsche Holding’s brand division president. Because of his extensive travels, he is fluent in German, English, French and Spanish, as well as conversational Mandarin and Japanese.
What have you learnt from Porsche that helps you in your current position?
At Porsche, there are sports car fans and sports utility vehicle fans, so you have to distinguish between the diff erent segments. Ferrari is a pure sports car brand, so the approach to customers is a very special and sophisticated one. At Maranello, the customer is always at the centre of what we do. If we plan to do something, listening to customer’s wishes first is always good to move things along in the company
What was the biggest culture shock moving from a German company to an Italian one?
Thankfully, none so far! I’m very driven to work for Ferrari after so many years with Porsche. German companies have lots of processes in place, and they are very exact in everything, which is good for their agenda. But it is not always about process here at Ferrari. It’s about special treatment, individual solutions and listening to the customer.
Do Ferrari’s Asian customers have diff erent expectations compared to their American and European counterparts?
Basic expectations, like aftersales and warranty issues, are the same worldwide. At the end of the day, it’s about being professional and keeping all the basics under control, so that things run smoothly.
Ferrari’s Tailor-customisation programme popular Asia-markets under management
How do Ferrari’s key markets in Asia diff er from one another?
The market in Japan is so experienced, especially when it comes to racing. Customers there spend a lot of time studying about cars, and sometimes they know even more than us! In China, the foundation isn’t there when it comes to racing and cars in general, but it is changing very quickly. In the beginning, customers were just buying our cars and not thinking about further costs that can occur later, which led us to focus on clarifying issues like warranty. In South-east Asia, we have lots of very good customers because the brand is very established here. There’s lots of passion in the region. The Indonesians have invested a lot in racing and it’s good to see them getting the results back. In Singapore, we have many high-value customers
What is the take-up rate for Ferrari’s Tailor-Made programme in this region?
We have many customers flying over to Italy regularly to customise their cars. But numbers are not everything. What’s also important is to demonstrate what the brand and product can do, to show what’s available, and to establish this knowledge within our customer groups. I feel Tailor- Made is stronger in this region than in other parts of the world.
Why is that so?
Maybe because we have markets that are relatively new and developing very quickly. When something has been there a long time, it tends to flatten out a little. But if something is new, you want to promote it extensively. Another guess is, we tend to underestimate the sophistication of the Asian customer.
How do you keep newer customers loyal to the brand?
By off ering them opportunities to use our products and have fun. Our customers can mingle with other like-minded enthusiasts, drive on a track and in a group, and have a feeling of community. If we are systematic with this approach and off er customers such opportunities, I believe they will stick with us.
Lamborghini is expanding its range with an SUV. Will we ever see Ferrari go down that route?
I think we just need to stick to our DNA, and be loyal to what Ferrari is and what people expect of us. At the moment, we do not feel any pressure, but we will see again in the future. Right now, it is best to stick to what we do best, which is racing, and making supercars. That is an integral part of our brand values.
What is your motto in life?
Like in business, my principle is to be honest and transparent. I have been educated with values relating to honesty, integrity and humbleness. If you apply such basics in business, you will succeed. Cheat your way through and it will bite you back one day.