By Carlo Versano

The Taycan, Porsche's forthcoming electric sedan, is still nearly a year from reaching dealerships, but pre-orders for the car support the automaker's decision to compete with Tesla head-to-head, according to Klaus Zellmer, head of Porsche's North American unit.

Zellmer told Cheddar, via an exclusive partnership with the NYSE, that two-thirds of Taycan orders are from customers who are buying a Porsche for the first time. He had said previously that Tesla ($TSLA) owners are actually the number one reservation holders.

Even though E.V. demand is still soft in the U.S. ー of the 17 million cars sold stateside last year, just 360,000 were electricー Zellner is confident that the German sports-car maker's decision to build its own from scratch would prove to be prescient, as consumer preferences shift and the technology improves. (The Taycan prototype has a range of more than 300 miles with an astonishing 600 horsepower.)

Porsche, which commands among the most devoted fans in the auto industry, has to be careful not to cannibalize its expanding lineup of vehicles or dilute its brand power, Zellmer acknowledged. The automaker already faced criticism when it expanded its production line to include four-door vehicles like the Panamera, Cayenne and, most recently, Macan crossover SUV. But those vehicles ー "everyday, usable cars" that are also fun to drive and luxurious ー have their own rabid fanbases, Zellmer said.

"If you want to be part of the market you better listen to customers," Zellmer said.

Porsche also made the controversial decision to begin a subscription service, Porsche Passport, that's now about a year-and-a-half old. That service, in which customers can pay a flat monthly fee starting at $2,000 for access to a fleet of Porsches, is about appealing to younger, affluent drivers who aren't interested in owning, or even leasing, a car, Zellmer said.

"As our environment changes, we also need to adapt."

Porsche dealers were up in arms over the Passport plan, arguing that the company was giving away the keys to its business. The average Porsche owner has three or four cars, and Passport would let them access that number of Porsches for the monthly fee. But to Zellmer, that's missing the point. Passport is tapping into a new customer base, he said ー not prior Porsche owners. Eighty percent of the fledgling program's 50 members have never had a Porsche. They're also five years younger and make $100,000 more than the average Porsche owner. They could afford a new Porsche, but they don't want to commit, Zellmer said.

"They want it when they want it."

For full interview click here.