Having been one of the venerable names in sports car manufacturing for the past 70 years, it’s no surprise that Porsche’s brand has high equity among car enthusiasts. It has reached a point wherein diehard ‘Porsche Purists’ would take arms at any blasphemous work done to their vehicles, and that on its own speaks volumes about how much their name means to the people. Of course, the consequence of this would be the inevitable bandwagoning of certain individuals to get a slice of the Porsche pie – by selling counterfeit products.
For a brand that maintains their heritage and keeps their name in high regard, counterfeit products can tarnish the reputation of Stuttgart’s finest; Hence their need to do something about the circulation of these items. The proliferation of counterfeit Porsche products across the globe has prompted the company to create a small team of lawyers solely tasked with identifying, confiscating, and eventually apprehending the makers of these fake items. Dubbed the Porsche Brand Protection division, lawyers Andreas Kirchgäßner, Thomas Fischer, and Michaela Stoiber all act as Brand Protection Officers that scour the globe for these sub-par items.
Last year, the trio was able to confiscate a total of 200,000 counterfeit items amounting to about EUR 60 million (Php 3.5 billion) worth. These included 33,000 spare parts which, on their own, sum up to about 2 million euros (Php 117 million). A lot of these products supposedly originate from rural China and are peddled online via pages like eBay, Amazon, and Alibaba.
When Michaela Stoiber and her colleagues uncover these items, they are immediately confiscated. “Sometimes the counterfeits are quite obvious,” she explains. “The products are far cheaper than normal, or the Porsche emblem has been poorly copied. We sometimes also find that a different animal is shown in the centre of the logo.” One time, she impounded thousands of erectile dysfunction pills shaped like the Porsche emblem from Turkey. Well, we suppose that’s one way to market the brand to middle-aged men.
Considering the aging of a good number of their much-coveted models, the demand for counterfeit spare Porsche parts is constantly growing. Wear-and-tear items are reproduced for a fraction of the cost and sold at fair market value yielding higher profit margins – ultimately at the cost of safety.
Items such as counterfeit airbags, wheels, and other key suspension components are sold and let loose into the market with Porsche markings but without the proper testing and development put into them. Again, this can only tarnish the name of the brand should they fail.
To pursue and apprehend counterfeiters, the Porsche Brand Protection division works closely with authorities and detective agencies in China who can scope, investigate, and eventually verify the actual sources of these items. Once verified, the division itself also participates in raiding these sources and subsequently confiscating and prosecuting the guilty parties.
While piracy can never be truly stopped, the steps taken to combat the sale of fake goods on online platforms are working fairly well. Big sites such as eBay and Alibaba are systematically scanned for suspect items. And if the team’s suspicions are confirmed, these listings have to be deleted. Nevertheless, the three brand protection officers all agree that there is no sign of their workload easing up. “China is like a haystack,” sums up Michaela Stoiber. And the team is sure to find plenty more needles to pull out in future.