LOS ANGELES – Porsche is receiving a surprising amount of interest from Tesla owners for its new all-electric Taycan sports car, according to the head of the automaker's North American operations.
Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO Porsche Cars North America, said out of "thousands" of potential U.S. customers who have shown "sincere interest" in the vehicle, Tesla owners are the highest among non-Porsche owners.
"They currently drive a Tesla, they're open to experiencing something new now," he told CNBC on the sidelines of the L.A. Auto Show in November. "We're very happy about that."
The German automaker, according to Zellmer, was "surprised" by the initial number of owners from Tesla, which is known for its cult following.
"We were actually surprised right from the get-go to see Tesla be so much in the foreground as a potential source of business," he said.
Behind Tesla owners were Porsche's usual competitors such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Current Porsche owners made up about half of the potential U.S. consumers who have shown significant interest in the vehicle, according to Zellmar. The company declined to disclose a specific amount of U.S. hand raisers for the Taycan.
Porsche previously said about 20,000 people globally had shown sincere interest in the vehicle by placing a deposit or visiting a dealership. That number does not include those who registered online to receive information on the Taycan. Porsche declined to release the number of online registrations.
Porsche expects the Taycan to add incremental sales, and help lead the company to another year of record U.S. retail sales in 2020, according to Zellmer. The company's domestic sales were up 6.5% through October — putting it on pace to top its record U.S. retail sales of 57,202 in 2018.
"With the Taycan coming into the U.S., the only way is up for us," Zellmer said. "That is an additional model line, so we expect us to exceed previous years sales by a margin."
Porsche, according to Zellmer, plans to leverage its reputation, heritage and customer experience to set the Taycan apart from the Tesla Model S and other competitors.
The Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S are extremely close in size and performance, however, consumers will be paying a premium for the all-new Taycan compared to the aging Model S, which began production in 2012.
The announced starting price range for the Taycan is between $103,800 for the base Taycan 4S and $185,000 for the top-end Taycan Turbo S. That compares to the $99,990 starting price of the top-line Model S. A base Taycan, priced below $100,000, is expected around next fall, according to Automotive News.
The top performance models of the Taycan and Model S both have 0 to 60 mph times of less than three seconds and top speeds of more than 160 mph. However, depending on the model, the Model S has a more than 370-mile range compared to the Taycan, which is expected to achieve less than 300 miles.