In the midst of the transition to electric mobility, the general manager of Volkswagen Spain, Laura Ros, is clear about her goals for the future: zero-emission mobility and zero accidents.
With a career dedicated to different positions of responsibility in the automotive sector and with nine years as head of Volkswagen in Spain, the executive from Barcelona talks in an interview with Go Aragón about the challenges and opportunities of the sector. She does so during her visit to Zaragoza to take part in a new session of the ADEA Forum, organized by the Association of Managers and Executives of Aragon.
This day is entitled “Challenges and opportunities of the new mobility paradigm”. Let’s start with the challenges facing the automotive industry. What are they?
One of the main challenges we have is, without a doubt, to make it sustainable and make the transition to zero-emission electric mobility, which will allow us, above all, to guarantee our commitment to be a CO2-neutral brand by 2050. This is the purpose we have been following since 2016, when we were the first brand to commit to the Paris Agreements.
And what opportunities open up with these changes?
On the one hand, as the second largest manufacturing country in Europe and ninth in the world, it must be an opportunity for us to lead this transformation.
Above all, we have to ensure the transition of our productive fabric towards the manufacture of one hundred percent electric vehicles. We have already confirmed with this ‘PERTE VEC’ (for the development of the electric and connected vehicle) the investment, together with our suppliers, of 10,000 million euros in the construction of a giant factory in Sagunto and the transformation of our factories in Martorell, in Catalonia, and in Landaben, in Navarre, with this transition towards the manufacture of electric vehicles for the group’s brands. This is a huge opportunity for us.
We are also going to launch our first compact electric vehicle below 25,000 euros in 2025, which for us is the price that will allow us to access a much larger market segment.
OUR FIRST COMPACT ELECTRIC VEHICLE UNDER 25,000 EUROS WILL ENABLE US TO ACCESS A MUCH LARGER MARKET SEGMENT.
You are referring to the ‘ID.2all’, is that right?
Yes, that is the concept car that was presented at the last Motor Show and that is a bit of the design line that indicates that this compact vehicle manufactured in Spain will be.
As I said, its price will be under 25,000 euros. What does it mean in terms of accessibility?
Yes, in that price range it would already have a price equivalent to that of the combustion engine model. With the accessibility provided by the new financing and installment payment solutions, it is expected that this model will already be accessible to a wide range of the population. In addition, of course, counting on the economy that these vehicles have both in maintenance and consumption, since the replacement of fuel by electric charging is much more economical for the end user.
To date, how are consumers responding to the electric car proposals?
We are seeing that our first customers know the product very well, they buy an electric model because they are really convinced that it is a very important step to improve sustainability.
They are customers who have also made a very good calculation of how efficient the use and utilization of this vehicle with renewable energy is. Above all, they are customers who demonstrate – and they are very active on social networks – that it is possible to make long-distance family trips by planning the trip and making stops at those fast charging points that are already available on the main highways. Also in hotels or restaurants that even advertise the possibility of recharging your vehicle when you hire them and that allow you to enjoy a hassle-free driving experience.
OUR FIRST CUSTOMERS HAVE MADE A VERY GOOD CALCULATION OF HOW EFFICIENT IS THE USE AND UTILIZATION OF THIS VEHICLE WITH RENEWABLE ENERGY.
In the brand’s bets, not only is the “electric” concept present, but also “connected”. What are the advantages of this connectivity?
The electric vehicle is closely linked to digitalization, which is very present in everything related to battery management and charging, or in the driving assistants – in that it is no different from a traditional combustion vehicle.
But what is also incorporated in our electric range is the remote software update, which allows you either to contract new functionalities or to update improvements as they occur.
For example, all the vehicle’s voice commands are technologies that are improving very quickly and these improvements can be incorporated into the vehicle’s software through remote updates, without the need to go to the workshop.
The general manager of Volkswagen Spain, Laura Ros, after the interview with Go Aragón.
Let’s move on to questions more oriented to your personal side. What traits do you think should be present in a good leadership?
I would say that the most important thing is team management. And, in team management, in times of transformation like the one we are going through, it is very important to communicate what is the ultimate goal we want to achieve and what is the purpose of the company.
From there, you have to give the teams their own tools so that they can make their own decisions with agility and autonomy. That’s the way you get the changes to be implemented at the speed that the environment is demanding.
YOU HAVE TO GIVE TEAMS THEIR OWN TOOLS SO THAT THEY CAN MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS WITH AGILITY AND AUTONOMY.
What values do you try to champion in your career?
Listening to everyone, which is very important in these times of change. Opinions have no hierarchies and everyone has to feel that they are in a safe environment in which to participate, where all ideas will be heard, wherever they come from. All ideas are likely to develop and prosper.
I also believe that teamwork and interdepartmental work is very important, especially at a time when, in all this construction of a new design for the mobility of the future, ideas rarely prosper with just one person. Normally, one person has an idea and the rest of the team is the one that enriches it and allows that idea to flourish and become an outreach project.
It is important to listen to all the voices in the generation of ideas and then listen to that collaborative environment where projects are worked on in a cross-cutting manner.
OPINIONS HAVE NO HIERARCHY. ALL IDEAS ARE LIKELY TO DEVELOP AND FLOURISH.
Speaking of transversality, you have held positions of responsibility in different areas such as marketing, after-sales or product. what has learning in various departments brought you?
I think it is very important to have a transversal vision of the company. This also allows you to understand where the relevant people are when it comes to making a decision for projects to prosper, to weave personal relationships between different areas and, above all, trust. Projects often fail because of a lack of trust between teams.
This transversality allows you to put yourself in the other’s shoes, to put yourself in the other’s shoes, because you have been there and you trust the teams that are there.
PROJECTS OFTEN FAIL BECAUSE OF A LACK OF TRUST BETWEEN TEAMS.
You have been involved in the automotive industry since your professional beginnings, how was your arrival in the 1990s in a traditionally “masculinized” sector?
The truth is that I, I guess because of my upbringing, did not think that my presence in this sector would be different because I was a woman.
I started my career right out of university at the headquarters of another manufacturer in Amsterdam. At that time, the whole equality issue in the Netherlands was already in place.
Then, when I joined Volkswagen Group Distribution in 1997, I also had many female colleagues in positions of responsibility whose careers have accompanied me.
In this sense, I have also had the privilege of working with bosses, men, yes, but who have really valued me for my talent and I have not felt that there was any discrimination in this respect, neither by the company nor by the sector in which I was working.
Today, is there more female presence in the sector?
It is improving and we notice it significantly. We have also been working for ten years on an Equality Plan that has allowed us to go from 25% of women in positions of responsibility to 35% of women in leadership positions, whether in general management, executive committee or middle management, in the last five years. In this Equality Plan, we continue to work to reach 40 % by 2025, which is the goal we have set ourselves.
Above all, we have a very diverse workforce where female talent also has its place. We ensure not only, of course, that there is equal pay for equal positions, which for us is hygienic, but we also report every six months to the Supervisory Board on how we are progressing in these Equality Plans and in these quotas of women in positions of responsibility.
We take this into account in our succession plan, so that in every promotion there is always a female candidate; in our recruitment phase, so that for all positions women are interviewed and that, with equal talent, women are hired to have that pool of talent. We also make sure that in those performance evaluations, when we measure quantitative results as when we do the competency evaluation at the aggregate level, there is no bias between men and women.
To conclude, a broader question at a time of so much change, what would you like the mobility of the future to look like?
Our dream is zero-emission, zero-accident mobility, linked to that electric and sustainable mobility. The future of autonomous driving will allow us to significantly reduce the accident rate, especially by avoiding the main cause of accidents, which is human error.
THE FUTURE OF AUTONOMOUS DRIVING WILL ENABLE US TO SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE THE ACCIDENT RATE.
In this newspaper we have a Women’s Leadership section and we always ask for advice for a girl or young woman who looks to role models like you. What would you tell them?
The truth is that I don’t give much advice in this sense. But I would tell her, above all, to train and prepare herself, and not to be afraid of anything. For me that’s the key: to dare to take risks.
That’s the message I always give to young people, that they have to be brave, that they have to take risks and, above all, that they have a lot of curiosity, both for traditional training and for non-formal training, which is becoming more and more important. Try different things so that in the end they can choose their own path, I think that’s the only advice I can give them.