Hungary’s largest motor vehicles importer, Porsche Hungaria opened an Innovation and Training Center (ITC), located just outside Budapest, last October. With a huge automotive training and transfer capacity, the center – considered by experts to be an outstanding educational facility on an international level – welcomes technical and sales professionals from all over the country (and beyond) to provide them with truly modern and complex 21st century skills.
As the Technical and Customer Service Director at Porsche Hungaria, László Markos tells Diplomacy&Trade, when they were given the opportunity to build this HUF 2 billion facility, financed by the company with the company’s own resources, they tried to look at the best practices in this field in Europe. “It was in Austria and Belgium where we found similar newly established educational facilities. Taking into account the best experience there and the factory guidelines, we designed the premises for theoretical and practical training. Necessities during the COVID-19 pandemic period showed us the usefulness of online education in certain areas, so we have integrated this in the design of the building. Thus, we have an online studio and a hybrid conference room to be able to conduct both face-to-face and online learning in this facility.”
Constantly updated skills
The center welcomes technical and sales professionals of the Porsche Hungaria network from all over the country. The Director highlights that “our cars are renewed almost every year and thus, we need to be able to ensure that the professionals update their knowledge year after year, whether it's our sales colleagues, service advisors or the service technicians themselves who actually touch these tools and if there's a problem, they can solve it. There are around 600 service technicians working in the Porsche Hungaria network, and another 300 office colleagues (sales people and service advisers), and they need to know every single functional element of the car too, even if they do not necessarily have to touch the components.”
Premium level of service
Regarding the specific subjects taught in the facility, László Markos stresses that “on one hand, we should expect a premium level of service from the dealer network. This obviously requires a premium level of knowledge on the side of the staff in the car showrooms and garages. This is definitely a priority requirement. Obviously, specific knowledge is needed to repair SEAT, SKODA, CUPRA, Audi or Volkswagen cars. These, of course, differ somewhat from the products of other manufacturers, but we are not afraid to try out the products of our competitors, to test them and learn about their strengths and possible disadvantages, because we can only give our customers correct information if we can show them in which areas we are better or where we can make up for lost ground. It is therefore a good facility to do comparative test drives and to get to know, at least at a user level, competing models, but obviously the main focus is on our own products.”
Not just for Hungarians
The facility welcomes professionals not only from Hungary, but also from several countries of the region. “Actually, the international aspect of our facility is more of a thing of the future, because we have only opened a few months ago and we would like to be able to present ourselves to our neighbors when we have polished everything up and everything is running smoothly. As for possible language challenges of training, all of our teachers have obtained their trainer certification at the car factory in Germany. Consequently, they are quite fluent in the language,” the Director points out. He adds that they have already delivered 1,500 training days in these few months. This is the number of participants since a course for ten people counts as ten training days. “
Providing a base of innovation
As László Markos emphasizes, the word ‘Innovation’ in the name of the facility very much appears in the day-to-day operation as well – and it also did in the construction of the building. “Automotive engineering is about constant innovation. We have to learn about new technologies and how to implement them at an operative level almost every month. This building, itself is also a state-of-the-art piece of architecture. For example, we do not heat with gas, but with a heat pump system. We are developing an energy storage add-on for our 115kW solar system, by reviving the tired batteries in our cars that may have run out, giving them a second life. This will be the biggest innovation this year, but we are open to participate in any factory development experiments or work where on-road driving plays an important role, or where the user experience is something the factory wants to build on.” He finds it important to note that the Center is located at the apex of the Győr (site of the Audi factory), the Zalazone test track and Budaörs triangle. It is very close to the meeting point of the M1 and the M7 highways, both of which are planned as a smart road while road No. 76 connecting the two ends will also be converted into a smart test road in the coming years. “Test cars using this road system will be able to turn around at the roundabout in front of our building. We have offered both to the development organizations and the universities as well as obviously to the Audi factory that we will be a fulcrum here, whether it's just charging an electric car, reading trouble codes, solving any practical issue, or just in terms of a nice coffee for the drivers – we want to be an important base and be involved in innovation in that way. The daily service practice also works as a serious feedback loop with quality improvement, as the positive and negative experiences our customers have on the road are fed back directly to the manufacturer and are fed back into the development as soon as possible,” the Director stresses.
An event venue
The Center is situated in a spacious building making it suitable for large-scale events. “In the largest room, we can accommodate up to 130 people. We have a large projection screen where we can provide the appropriate audiovisual technology. Last fall, we held a service technology conference for 130 people of our own network. This January, we had the annual opening meeting of the Austrian-Hungarian Business Council here attended by numerous managers of companies with an Austrian interest based in Hungary, who are obviously also involved in the automotive industry, either as users or even suppliers. We were able to easily provide them with a smaller, 40-seat meeting room with all the necessary infrastructure,” László Markos notes.
Preparing for better times
The automotive industry has recently been plagued by a number of well-known problems, such as supply chain bottlenecks and chip shortages. However, the creation of this training center is a sign of optimism on the part of the company. “I believe that in economically challenging years, such as last year and, I expect, this year, our service network and our dealer network can be well prepared to take a very strong bracket after a recovery. To do this, it is imperative that we are equipped with state-of-the-art techniques, knowledge of our cars, the methods, software and tools needed to sell vehicles and serve our customers. But perhaps most importantly, we need the personal human skills and abilities to be able to deal with our customers' expectations,” the Director concludes.
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