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There is a time after Corona

Skoda boss Bernhard Maier on the current challenges and consequences of the corona pandemic and looking ahead.

Skoda boss Bernhard Maier.

We meet for the virtual interview. How does the home office work?

Surprisingly good. We hold our board meetings virtually, almost all other meetings take place online and there are still e-mails and telephones. Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to the personal exchange, which remains irreplaceable. He is already missing for many and will definitely experience a new value.

How did you react to the Corona crisis at Skoda in the first few days??

In an exceptional situation like this, it was crucial for us to act quickly and consistently. We immediately set up a task force and a crisis management team to bring together all the relevant information and set up processes and structures efficiently. The health of our employees and society has always had top priority. Accordingly, on March 18th we shut down our production in the three Czech factories and adjusted our supply chains. Our focus then was on using the time during the shutdown in a disciplined manner and organizing the orderly, gradual restart. Some functions also had to continue to run urgently, such as our power plant or the supply of spare parts. At the same time, we continued to work on our numerous projects, such as development. Fortunately, many tasks can also be completed in the home office.

How hard is the Corona crisis hitting Skoda?

Our global sales markets have been hit hard. This means that we are currently generating very little sales, while our fixed costs naturally continue. This is an enormous burden. I therefore very much welcome the fact that the Czech government is supporting the economy quickly and unbureaucratically in this difficult situation, for example in the form of an aid package that is comparable to the German short-time allowance. However, such a measure cannot be unlimited. It is important for society as a whole to find a good balance in the coming days and weeks between protecting citizens from the virus as best as possible and securing the economy and jobs.

Can you already estimate the financial consequences of the corona pandemic??

No, it’s much too early for that. The positive thing is that we have managed solidly and currently have sufficient liquidity. Skoda has posted record results in recent years. And yes, every car that couldn’t roll off the assembly line hurts us. We have been producing at our capacity limit for years. Unfortunately, this loss of production will probably not be fully made up for this year. We hope all the more that the corona pandemic can be contained as quickly as possible in order to be able to supply the many customers who are waiting for our cars. With our modern and broad model portfolio, we are very well positioned as soon as the shops open again, public life picks up and the economy gets going. Despite the currently difficult overall situation, I am confident that our company will emerge from it stronger. Also because we as a large Skoda family are getting even closer together in these times. Now we show what sets us apart: solidarity, trust and prudence. At this point I would like to say a big thank you to all Skodians who are dealing with this situation excellently. This thanks also goes explicitly to our social partner KOVO.

This means that you are confident that you will get through this crisis without cutting jobs?

In 2015, with our Strategy 2025, we defined a clear growth plan that is taking hold. We want to continue this after the current very challenging situation. There is a time after Corona. Our top priority is to keep all Skodians on board.

What effects do you expect the corona pandemic to have on the global economy?

The global economy has been hit hard with its globally networked trade flows. Nobody can seriously estimate the effects today. They will be greater than during the crises of the past decades. The longer public life and the economy are halted, the greater the risk that our general prosperity, which we have built up over the past few years, will erode. That is why we will only master this challenge together with coordinated international efforts. The solidarity we need to compensate for the consequential damage will have to be even greater than we are currently demonstrating.

What do you mean exactly??

Now, for example, pan-European cohesion is even more important in order to be able to start together again after the crisis. For example, I think it is right to now discuss eurobonds or alternative measures to strengthen our European Union in the long term. We at Skoda are part of a globally active group that has its roots in Germany and Europe. In my opinion, a strong, united Europe is indispensable for our economy, for example the free movement of goods, and also for our democratic society.

How does the Corona crisis affect your e-mobility strategy?

As of today, we are sticking to our plans: by the end of 2022 we will have 10 partially or fully electrified models in our range. Later this year we will present the ENYAQ iV, our first pure electric car that was designed as such from the outset.

What do you personally learn from the crisis??

A few things come to mind. For example, we should never take anything for granted. Especially the simple and elementary things from our everyday life. We are currently learning to appreciate them again. In terms of communication and digitization, I have noticed that we are much further along than we might have thought before the Corona crisis. We can adapt very quickly to new forms of work. We will continue to exploit this efficiency of digital communication even after the crisis. And finally: We may find, paradoxically, after the crisis that the virus has created more distance physically, but has brought us all even closer together. And that’s why, despite all the current uncertainty, one thing is certain for me: in every crisis – including this one – there is also an opportunity for all of us.

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