Thomas Trissl wanted to do something fun after he sold his first flooring company in Florence. Three years ago, he partnered with Jason Schurfeld and started Trissl Sports Cars, a company that collects, sells and exports Porsches of all makes and models on the international market.
“We started in 2012 as a ‘just for fun’ kind of hobby put together with Jason’s expertise in finding and selling Porsches, ” Trissl says. “In the meantime, it’s become a small business which is now part of TMT (America Inc.).”
Trissl was born and raised in Germany. He founded TMT America Inc., which provides capital and consulting for developing companies. He was also the founder and former president of Centiva flooring, which he started in 1996 and sold to Tarkett in 2010. Since then, he acquired HPS North America, the importer of Schönox products into North America. The newer companies are located across the street from the Centiva location in Florence.
Schönox is a German manufacturer of primers, repair mortars, floor leveling compounds and adhesives. Then, there’s the passion for Porsches, shared by Trissl and Schurfeld, a former Porsche dealership manager. The two met about seven years ago.
“With the cars, we are not a typical dealership, ” Trissl says. “We are more service oriented in selling classic cars, but mostly focused on Porsches. We now have a customer base who know us simply by word of mouth.”
Trissl says they’ve built a reputation because of Schurfeld’s knowledge and ability along with their contacts across North America and Europe.
“Jason hunts it down, ” Trissl says. “We are always open to any owner who wants to trust us to find a new home for their car.”
They started with five cars. Today, they keep between 40 and 50 Porsches in the TMT collection.
“It’s like a living museum, ” Schurfeld says.
Inside the heavily secured showroom, you’ll find the 911, 930, 964 and 996 models, along with the Boxster, Cayman and Cayenne. There are Carreras and Targas. You’ll see the traditional colors, black, silver and red. But you’ll also see a wide variety of rare colors from peridot to purple.
Schurfeld says the cars have to be driven on a regular basis and most of that is left up to him. He uses one of the new models if he’s taking a longer trip, mainly for the creature comforts.
“Around town I love to drive the older models, because they’re more raw, ” he says, admitting he has a great job.
But that’s not all. There’s even a 1959 Porsche Diesel 2 cylinder tractor included in the collection. Only 1, 000 of them were imported to the U.S., Schurfeld says.
“There was also a 4-wheel drive tractor on the drawing board as early as 1946, ” Schurfeld says.
“We are a place for collectors and investors, ” Trissl says.
Their specialty is rare but affordable, he adds.
“We’re not talking about the Jerry Seinfeld types, we cannot afford those, but we surround ourselves with rare models that are in good shape and that are affordable.”
Prices start in the $40, 000 range. The price depends on the model. Since Trissl is not a Porsche dealer, they do not provide financing.
“Typically, our customers are looking for models from 1965 to 1998, ” Schurfeld says. “And a lot of our customers are to the point in their lives they are looking for the cars that were popular when we were kids.”
Trissl grew up in his father’s Porsches, and his first Porsche, a 1993 Turbo 911 3.6, is in the collection.
During the past three years, Schurfeld says they’ve sold 155 cars. Only a handful of those were sold in Alabama. The biggest Porsche markets in the U.S. are California, Texas, Florida and New York. In Europe, it’s the United Kingdom and Germany.
There’s also an annual event for Porsche enthusiasts.
The Third Annual Über Region Fest was held in April, including an Autocross, Porsche Car Show, food and music. Like the business, the fest has grown each year. It started with about 45 cars, and this year at least 150 cars were expected, along with 300 people.
“More than 97 percent of all Porsches made over the last 25 years are still used, ” Trissl says. “That is one reason they are so popular.”
Porsche collectors are passionate about the hobby, but Trissl says he doesn’t see them as fanatics.
“It’s what we love, ” Schurfeld says.
“Sometimes after a car leaves we may say, ‘Oh we shouldn’t have sold that one, ’” Trissl says. “But it’s not a hobby in what it cost you in terms of money. The value of the car itself is a given, and, provided that hobby doesn’t lose a lot of money, it’s an interesting asset class.”
Some people invest in art or wine as a secondary investment class, he says. Others invest in mechanical things.
Schurfeld says he often hears from people whose stocks are not doing well and they need to put their money elsewhere.
“Buying something they can enjoy and have fun and appreciate it, and then later get rid of it and still make money or at least know that they enjoyed it while they had it, makes a lot of sense to some people.”
As an Alabama company owner and entrepreneur, he says he believes Alabama still needs to promote itself more.
“I have very much enjoyed the fact we can build businesses here and the state and city are supportive, ” Trissl says. “I have friends in other states tell me how difficult it is to do business there, and I tell people all the time they should consider Alabama, because it’s a great place to have a business.”
About a year ago, Trissl and Schurfeld added an assistant, Shannon Love, who handles everything from graphics to logistics.
“In my opinion, we haven’t even started yet, ” Trissl says. “That it’s possible to put something together like this in Florence, an area with not a lot of accessibility, is impressive. But for every small town and small business, creativity is the most important element.”
Social media like Instagram and Facebook have helped spread the word. A newsletter also reaches about 2, 500 people. Some buyers fly to the area to see the car, but many make the purchase via photos.
Trissl stresses the business is nothing like a big dealership. “We are humble and petite about it, ” Trissl says.
Wendy Reeves and Dennis Keim are freelance contributors to Business Alabama. Both are based in Huntsville.
Text By WENDY REEVES • Photos by DENNIS KEIM