A company brand or logo is one of its most valuable properties. As one would guess, Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft lead all the rest. The Porsche brand is in the top ten of automotive brands. It is easy to understand then why Porsche makes sure all its dealerships have a similar look. Companies like Porsche are keen to protect their brands – and it certainly keeps lawyers gainfully employed! In the early days in America, that was not the case.
The first dealer to bring the Porsche 356 to the United States was Max Hoffman in 1950. He was an Austrian who fled due to antisemitism just before the war and ended up in New York City in 1942. Prior to his move, he was acquainted with the Porsche family and others in Viennese automotive circles. Interestingly, Hoffman’s first major client was Jaguar. He was also instrumental in introducing VW in the US and, as noted earlier, he was pivotal in bringing Porsche over from Europe.
Given these successes, he wanted to have a flagship showroom in NYC. The interior of the showroom was designed by one of the most well-known architects at that time – Frank Lloyd Wright – who was already designing Hoffman’s home. Even today, I suspect, many people if asked to name a famous architect would mention his name. It took three house designs before Hoffman was satisfied. The showroom design included a ramp with a 31-foot diameter turntable, but the project stretched out so long that Jaguar dropped Hoffman. Losing Jaguar wasn’t too serious for Hoffman as he also had Mercedes and BMW as clients. Some believe the Guggenheim Museum design was inspired by this showroom.
By 1954, Hoffman was selling 30 percent of Porsche’s worldwide market. He sold the first Porsche west of the Mississippi to John von Neuman of California who was instrumental in making California a centre for Porsche aficionados.
In other ways, Hoffman was important to the early history of Porsche. He persuaded Ferry Porsche to have an emblem for the cars in addition to the name. The crest, as Porsche calls it, has essentially remained the same, with some tweaks, the most recently being the seventh iteration this year. Hoffman also was influential in getting Porsche a consulting contract to design a car for Studebaker. The money earned from this contract removed financial roadblocks in Germany and financed the factory in Zuffenhausen. Further, Hoffman’s request to Porsche led to the creation of a lower cost Porsche, the Speedster, which is still one of the most iconic Porsches. It was the lowest priced Porsche ever although Porsche charged extra for the tachometer and heater even though every car came equipped with them. This additional charge kept the advertised price low. Hoffman also influenced Porsche to use names rather than numbers, which is evident with the Speedster instead of some 356 variation, and then the Spyder instead of 550.
Max Hoffman ceased representing Porsche internationally in 1959, and in 1964 Porsche took over importing their cars in the eastern US. Hoffman received a royalty on every Porsche sold in America during that period. You could say he had the (W)right stuff! He certainly was a major part of Porsche’s early success. </>