Prof. Dr. Helena Wisbert. Foto: CAR-Center Automotove Research

eMove360° Women-in-Tech interview: Prof. Dr. Helena Wisbert, Director CAR-Center Automotive Research

The eMove360° series “Women in Tech” presents inspiring women who have gained a foothold in the automotive industry. After Clotilde Delbros, CEO Mobilize, Marta Almuni, Cupra Head of Technology, Silja Pieh, Head of Corporate Strategy at AUDI, Dr. Johanna Henrich ESG Manager at Porsche and Emanuella Wallin Project Manager Vehicle-to-Grid at Polestar, the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language (download here for free) focuses on Prof. Dr. Helena Wisbert. Sabine Metzger spoke to the Director of CAR – Center Automotive Research about the challenges facing the German automotive industry, the competition from China and what drives her personally.

Professor Wisbert, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us. In 2024, you succeeded Prof. Ferdinand Dudenhöffer as Director of CAR – Center Automotive Research, Duisburg. You have big shoes to fill. Where have you set your personal goals?

Prof. Dr. Helena Wisbert: The CAR Center Automotive Research is of course not a one-woman show, even though I took over as Scientific Director on January 1, 2024. I am particularly proud of the fact that the CAR team is very international and that an equal number of women and men work at the institute, which is still not the norm in the automotive industry. My vision for the future is that the CAR Institute will continue to establish itself as a renowned research institute for the transformation of the automotive industry, known for its in-depth studies and analyses. For example, I would like to make even greater use of AI-supported data analysis in the market analyses we carry out in order to be able to expand our forecasts and predict market developments even earlier and more precisely. I am also committed to greater knowledge sharing and collaboration with other industry experts. This can sometimes be neglected in everyday working life.

You have also been Professor of Automotive Economics at Ostfalia University in Wolfsburg since 2022. The automotive industry/automotive business seems to be your passion. Has it always been like that? How did it come about?

Wisbert: The automotive industry has been part of my life ever since I studied general business administration, starting with internships, my diploma thesis, which was already on the subject of alternative drive systems at the time, and then my dissertation, which I wrote as an employee of the Volkswagen Group. I was very fortunate to be closely involved in the strategic beginnings of electromobility. For example, I was responsible for the launch of the Volkswagen brand’s first electric cars on the German market. That was over 10 years ago, but some of the same questions are still being asked by the public about electric cars today. The topic of sustainable individual mobility has fascinated me from the very beginning. It’s not just the economic importance of the automotive industry in our part of the world, but also the personal enthusiasm for cars and individual mobility. The freedom to drive whenever you want and wherever you want is a valuable asset of our time.

What drives you in your daily work – in research and as a professor in front of your students in the lecture hall?

Wisbert: I find it very exciting to accompany the transformation process in the automotive industry from a scientific perspective. In terms of teaching, I want to provide students with practical knowledge and enable them to view and assess current developments in the automotive industry from different perspectives.

What characterizes the German automotive industry?

Wisbert: A very high level of innovation, professionalism and maturity of the products. In the German automotive industry, billions are being invested in the transformation topics of future drive concepts and digitalization. And you can also see this in the breadth and depth of the variety of models and drive concepts. That is unique. If you take a look at the cars in the shopping districts of Berlin, Düsseldorf or Munich, you will see just how many different variants are available from German car manufacturers.

What challenges is it currently facing?

Wisbert: With the ramp-up of the electric car market, new competitors have emerged who have focused their production and sales concepts on electromobility, taking advantage of greenfield planning. These are, in particular, innovative production methods and cost advantages in the large cost block of the battery. The cars are coming onto the market with fewer options but with more connectivity. This has cost the German automotive industry market share in China, the world’s largest automotive market. Although competition has also increased significantly for suppliers, new car manufacturers have also joined the market as customers. However, the latest figures from April also show that German car manufacturers were able to defend their market strength here in Germany, including in the e-car segment.

Why is it so difficult for German car manufacturers to produce an affordable small e-car? What makes e-cars so expensive?

Wisbert: This is not just a problem for German car manufacturers, Tesla has also been announcing an affordable Model 2 for several years, for which the Grünheide site in Germany is even being discussed for production. The cost of the battery is more difficult to integrate economically into a small car than into a mid-range SUV. The Chinese car manufacturer BYD is able to do this because BYD produces the batteries itself and also sells them in large quantities to other car manufacturers, which lowers the price per battery.

When will there be a small car with an electric drive under 20,000 euros from German production?

Wisbert: The small cars announced by German and French manufacturers have been announced for 2027, but they will not be made in Germany, but in Spain, for example.

Where do you see the German automotive industry in ten or twenty years’ time?

Wisbert: In 10 years, almost fully electric and with other drive concepts such as hydrogen on offer. The business model will continue to evolve. In future, car manufacturers will no longer just focus on the initial sale of cars, but will position themselves more broadly as mobility service providers. And I can well imagine German manufacturers becoming even more involved with Chinese brands.

How do you recharge your batteries in your private life?

Wisbert: I pay a lot of attention to my balance, otherwise I can’t keep up the fast pace. In my free time, I travel with a horsepower. Riding always brings me back to the here and now.

You can read this and other articles on the subject of electromobility & autonomous driving in the current issue of eMove360° magazine in german language. Order the print version in the shop or download the PDF free of charge.

19.06.2024   |  

Related Posts