The automotive industry is essential for the human’s desire for mobility
In May 2020, at the height of the global pandemic, we had the opportunity to interview Jörg Howe, Head of Global Communications at Daimler AG (from the first of February Mercedes-Benz Group AG).
We had the pleasure of knowing and deeping his professional experience, the challenges of the pandemic, and the future of the automotive industry.
After a degree in History, English Literature, and Educational Sciences from the University of Hamburg, Jörg Howe followed his passion and decided he wanted to become a journalist.
His career began at major television broadcasters such as NDR and Tagesschau. An important event during his professional career was the development of a new television format: the televison show Brisant.
Other important work experiences followed, as editor-in-chief at Sat.1, assignments at Corporate Communications in Karstadt, and, finally, in 2008, Jörg Howe became the Head of World Communications at Daimler.
At the beginning, I thought I couldn’t bear it for even two years, now I’ve been here for 12 years and I really, really enjoy it.
However, he could not imagine that one day he would have to face the challenges of Covid-19 pandemic.
Here is the interview held in May 2020:
What changes have there been in the working day of Daimler employees? And how have they been supported at this time of crisis, to continue (where possible) productive activities?
“At 8:45 every morning we start with our meeting of the day. I want everyone to participate to stay updated. After my information on the current situation, each sector updates us on the news.
Some of our employees are on layoffs, but I hope to resume them soon to get back to normal, as we have a lot of work to do with our ongoing projects.
Especially for colleagues with children it is often difficult to work from home, so we want to give the opportunity to come to the office as soon as possible, but obviously with the safety distance and with masks. “
Many automotive companies have converted their production following the Coronavirus emergency. Mercedes also wanted to make its 3D printers available to produce medical devices. Has the project been implemented? Are there other similar projects in progress?
“Immediately at the beginning of the crisis, we donated 110,000 masks to German citizens. We had them in our offices because we need them in the production phase.
In England, we had a National Health Service assignment for 10,000 “simple” fans together with our Formula 1 team, which will be completed in a few days.
Here in Germany, we have been able to produce, through our 3D printers, a specific piece that is used for fans. On request, we can put 3,000 into production in a week. The first 2,500 were made for the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany, where we have a large production site.”
We are experiencing an emergency of right words right now. Not just a health emergency!
The right words inform, move common sense, responsibility, a sense of community and make us act rationally. The nefarious words speak to the belly, sow hatred, fear, racism, and mistrust and make us blind and selfish.
These days more than ever, we realize how much communication is a matter to be handled with care: the words we choose and the way we use them determine perceptions and reactions that can change the course of events.
How has communication with your customers been set up now? Are there any new marketing projects or ideas that you would like to share with us, to help even Italian companies communicate in the right way at the time of the Coronavirus?
“A good example is our Be a Mover initiative, which we are carrying out with different artists and actors. We have already organized a concert in the lobby of a nursing home in Berlin, to create moments of joy for the elderly, who live in isolation. Since March we have been promoting the Donate our reach project through our social networks. The vastness of our audience is used to give expert-approved information about Covid-19. Until today we have reached 400 million people.
We had already booked advertising space on TV and online so we used them to thank all the daily heroes and all those who stay at home.
However, our communication models differ according to the different regional markets. The way we communicate in Europe is not the same way we communicate in China.
China is the first country in which the market returns to normal, so we start again with the classic contents of our communication, both in electronic and printed format.
For our internal communication, we use a Social-Intranet platform, through which we constantly update our employees all over the world. Here we provide all the information of the experts on Covid-19.
This communication system is very important for us, not to forget our employees, among all the communication that is addressed to our customers. “
The automotive world is experiencing a time of profound transformation (electrification, autonomous driving, reduction of CO2 emissions). What should your ideal car look like in the future?
“My vision of the ideal car is a hybrid vehicle that, in cities, moves mainly electrically and at the same time can cover long distances with a low-polluting internal combustion engine, where the infrastructure for electric charging does not yet exist.
The ideal car must have the autonomous driving, which is why we are already on the right track. Thus, the driver can relax but there must still be the possibility to drive the car yourself when you want to do it.
This would be my ideal car.
The new S-Class that we will present in autumn already fits my vision quite well. Another very interesting model is that of an electric S-Class that we will launch next year. They will be two vehicles that meet my vision.
Currently, I drive a G-Class, therefore an old-fashioned model, but it still gives me a lot of pleasure! “
How do you think global mobility will change after the Coronavirus? Can we still talk about sustainable mobility? Or will it rather be the entire mobility process that needs to be rethought? What “lessons” do the automotive sector think it can draw from this emergency in order to be useful to the world population in the future?
“The automotive sector is essential to man’s desire to be mobile. The car allowed us to experience the independent mobility that did not exist before.
Due to the Coronavirus, our industry faces new challenges: the desire for safe, virus-free mobility. People need to feel safe.
For us of the automotive industry this means that vehicles must be able to filter the air from the outside, freeing it from viruses, to give the human being a sense of security.
We also need innovative systems to protect us from accidents. These aspects will be important in the near future and will affect our industry in the long term.
At the same time, the desire for sustainable propulsion systems, which have a minimal impact on our environment, is strengthened. We see good prospects in hydrogen, electricity, or hybrid propulsion.”
Three tips for our younger readers: what are the right steps to take to get a job interview in a company like Mercedes?
“That’s a good question. There are 1000 possibilities. One option is to use your contacts. This will always matter as long as human beings exist.
In my beginnings in the working world I had no contacts and I was lucky to get the chance to work at the NDR.
Another way could be to write an extraordinary email. For this, you should look for the contact details of the managers and send them a message.
It can be a smart or serious email, but the important thing is to contact people directly to attract their interest.
What I don’t like is getting standardized emails (even if with all the necessary documents) from people I’ve never met before. “