911 maintenance: OPCs v independent specialists part 1
As far as Official Porsche Centres go, the latest addition in Portsmouth is truly one to behold. A flagship OPC that has been trading for six months, the lavish new premises provide the perfect setting for part one of our investigation into one of the most common debates in Porschedom: where should you take your 911 for servicing and maintenance, your nearest OPC or an independent Porsche specialist?
The focus here of both the OPCs and independent Porsche specialists at large is on the care of 911s that are at least two years old and fall outside of Porsche’s Approved Warranty scheme. This applies to 911s of any age, including the original air-cooled 911 right up to and including the Type 997.
On the day of my visit, I arrived early and pulled into the spacious car park. First impressions, as you would expect, were nothing short of exceptional. The showroom, being no more than
a few hundred days old, was in immaculate condition and scattered with new Porsches, including 911s, neatly wrapped up in bows for the festive season. The atmosphere was professional, and with an introduction and a hello from sales manager Philip Brine, I was led in the direction of a comfy sofa.
Sitting alongside me was a middle-aged gentleman, and soon we were deep in conversation, where I was able to find out his circumstance for visiting the OPC.
It transpired that he needed two new rear tyres for his much-loved 997, a late birthday present to himself a few years back. He explained that following quotes from two other OPSs, he called this OPC at Portsmouth and asked them if they could match his best quote which, it turns out, is pretty much what they did.
The chap continued that the quote from Portsmouth OPC also included a full valet for his 911, which is around £70 from a local garage, with the offer to lend him a courtesy car or provide a pick up/drop off service if he wished to leave the car with them and rush off. We agreed that it seemed like good value – plus, he was quick to point out, he likes to visit an OPC!
It seems, then, that in the competitive world of aftermarket servicing and with legislation now lending a helping hand to independents, OPCs such as this do have some flexibility. Porsche naturally want to be competitive, and provide added value to prove it.
With the photographer on site, we were offered a guided tour of the entire building. Highlights included an immaculate new car sales floor, an in-house car lift straight out of Q’s lab, a configuration room for those stepping into new 911 ownership, and an array of glass-lined offices. Every aspect of the business is very much on show for a Porsche customer to witness, and such transparencies only enrich the aura of professional wisdom.
Upstairs, a used car sales floor was neatly arranged, with a beautiful Guards red 3.2 Carrera taking pride of place on a display overlooking the reception area below. The car actually belongs to a customer who uses the branch and who was allowed to store his vehicle free of charge over the winter in this dry, warm, car heaven. Now that’s customer service.
The air of transparency at Portsmouth’s OPC was further enforced as Mr Brine took me back downstairs toward the Direct Diagnostic Bay, an area that besides a wedge of glass is very much a part of the showroom, and serves a very clear and ingenious purpose.
Mr Brine divulges, “The Direct Diagnostic Bay is our way of highlighting our level of commitment to customers and the service we offer. This bay is the first port of call for customers experiencing any issue with their Porsche. Here, we inspect and highlight the issues we find that need attention. There are no cloaks and daggers; we have made a concerted effort to be clear, quite literally. The customer is no more than a few feet away, and we actively encourage them to see for themselves where the issue lies. There is no fee for this service, and that’s a commitment in terms of our time that we feel should be a normal part of servicing any prestige vehicle.”
I was then led into the main service room. As you’d expect it was, again, immaculate – almost surgically clean. I’m told there are three full-time technicians each with over 15 years experience in Porsche, plus an apprentice permanently on site. What I also find encouraging is the ongoing nature of training, and Porsche’s continued support and development of its staff – either physically at the Porsche Cars GB headquarters in Reading or via online. It’s aimed at bringing staff members constantly up to speed on ever-increasing service standards set by Porsche themselves.
One obvious benefit of using a genuine OPC, then, is the insistence on the very latest and officially approved diagnostic and service apparatus, such as Porsche PIWIS testers, the latest Hunter alignment hardware, continued software and hardware developments and a host of specific Porsche tools that make light work of even the most fiddly or awkward jobs. What is clear from the outset is that an OPC provides its staff with unparalleled access to the finest equipment, which I have no doubt is reflected in the standard of work.
To read the full feature on part 1 of our investigation into OPCs v independent specialists, turn to page page 42 of Total 911 issue 97. To get your copy wherever you are in the world, visit the Imagine Shop at www.imagineshop.co.uk/magazines/total911.html, or download a digital edition for all platforms via the fabulous new GreatDigitalMags.com website.
Part two of our investigation, where we look at the merits of the independent specialists, can be found here.