Moving Forward
Mobility in Flux

Empty airports and train stations and the suspension of car production—the Covid-19 pandemic brought mobility to a halt in many parts of the world. The CEOs of leading mobility companies look to the future.


Mobility was already changing before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the crisis has given it a further boost: towards the future. Rethinking is called for.
Mobility was already changing before the Covid-19 pandemic, but the crisis has given it a further boost: towards the future. Rethinking is called for. Mario Wagner 

When the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic got under­way, most air­planes were ground­ed and cruise ships were docked. Trains, trams, and buses often kept run­ning, although with con­sid­er­ably fewer pas­sen­gers and com­pre­hen­sive social dis­tanc­ing mea­sures. Car mak­ers and sup­pli­ers were com­pelled to sus­pend pro­duc­tion because of dis­rup­tions to their sup­ply chains. In this edi­tion of the Porsche Con­sult­ing mag­a­zine, com­pa­ny lead­ers describe how they respond­ed to the dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion and what they expect for the future.

Marcopolo: Rethinking Mobility as a System

James Bellini, CEO, Marcopolo Group Marcopolo

“Since we have indus­tri­al oper­a­tions in eight coun­tries and export to about forty coun­tries, the biggest chal­lenge of the pan­dem­ic was to adjust our busi­ness strat­e­gy to con­front the new sce­nario. The peak of the pan­dem­ic occurred at dif­fer­ent times in these coun­tries, and we were forced to tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend the oper­a­tion of most plants in Brazil and abroad. We had envi­sioned 2020 to become the most suc­cess­ful year ever in the his­to­ry of the com­pa­ny and had hir­ing plans. Instead, we need­ed to fur­lough some of our staff and to reduce jour­neys and salaries. Per­son­al­ly, anoth­er great chal­lenge was to mobi­lize lead­er­ship to face this new sce­nario and, for­tu­nate­ly, we were successful.

In response to the adverse sce­nario caused by the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic, Mar­copo­lo extend­ed the dura­tion of the order book and quick­ly focused efforts on two major fronts: cost ade­qua­cy and cash preser­va­tion, as well as devel­op­ing alter­na­tives to enable our clients to oper­ate safe­ly again, with the launch of the Mar­copo­lo BioSafe plat­form. This is a series of biosafe­ty solu­tions devel­oped to make pub­lic trans­porta­tion safer against virus and bac­te­ria con­t­a­m­i­na­tion and to regain pas­sen­gers’ con­fi­dence that they will have ade­quate san­i­tary con­di­tions when travelling.

Glob­al mobil­i­ty is under­go­ing pro­found changes, regard­less of the pan­dem­ic. Pub­lic trans­porta­tion sys­tems in large cities are on the verge of col­lapse, so it is nec­es­sary to rethink the sys­tem and find new ways of plan­ning cities and peo­ple’s loco­mo­tion. There­fore, last year we cre­at­ed Mar­copo­lo Next, an inno­va­tion divi­sion focused on devel­op­ing solu­tions for the future of mobil­i­ty, aligned with our 2025 strate­gic plan. That’s because we think of mobil­i­ty as a sys­tem encom­pass­ing urban plan­ning, modals, and var­i­ous means of transportation—not just the bus, which is our core busi­ness. We believe that in this way, we can imple­ment the trans­for­ma­tion for our sec­tor that we strive for—by rais­ing the lev­els of com­pet­i­tive­ness and sus­tain­abil­i­ty of the var­i­ous play­ers, while adding to the com­fort, safe­ty, speed, and con­ve­nience of pub­lic transportation.”

The Marcopolo Group …

... is a Brazilian multinational corporation and among the world’s largest bus body and component manufacturers. With 14,000 employees at fifteen plants in Brazil and in other countries across the five continents, the company produces bus bodies and components for various brands and bus types ranging from large coaches for tourism and intercity travel to city buses and microbuses. In 2019, the Group achieved results of USD 790 million.

Public transportation: Huge drop in passengers, continued focus on sustainability

Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe: Advancing the transformation of transportation

Ulf Middelberg, Management Spokesperson, Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe Porsche Consulting/Marco Prosch

“The pan­dem­ic is hit­ting the econ­o­my hard, and the mobil­i­ty sec­tor espe­cial­ly so. As a pub­lic trans­porta­tion com­pa­ny, we saw demand for our ser­vices drop dra­mat­i­cal­ly, by 75 per­cent. But we lived up to our respon­si­bil­i­ties. We adapt­ed our ser­vices to keep trans­porta­tion run­ning for peo­ple doing essen­tial work. And we had to take the right steps to pro­tect our employ­ees. At the same time, our pas­sen­gers showed a high degree of sol­i­dar­i­ty, which I per­son­al­ly found very heart­en­ing. Like all com­pa­nies, we are now fac­ing the chal­lenge of find­ing our bear­ings in this new reality.

Our goal is to take this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty. That includes adjust­ing our ser­vices to meet demand and work­ing to regain the con­fi­dence of our cus­tomers. The mobil­i­ty sec­tor has there­fore launched a cam­paign called #Besser­Weit­er (“Bet­ter­Fur­ther”). It focus­es on the employ­ees, because with­out their com­mit­ment and con­fi­dence we would not have been able to han­dle the cri­sis. And our work remains the same for the future—we want to bring about a shift to sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion in Ger­many. Pub­lic trans­porta­tion is one of the answers and solu­tions need­ed to ensure envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly mobil­i­ty and favor­able liv­ing con­di­tions in Germany.”

Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe (LVB) …

… is the public transportation company for Leipzig and the surrounding region. It has played a role in the development of this eastern German city for more than 140 years. With a tight network of thirteen tram and forty-six bus lines serving more than 150 million passengers a year, LVB is one of Germany’s largest transportation companies. An app and twenty-six mobility stations at highly frequented stops link tram and bus services to bike and car-sharing options as well as taxis. The company uses electric vehicles, and also operates charging stations for electric cars.

Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe: Regaining passenger confidence

Stefanie Haaks, CEO, Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe AG Christoph Seelbach

“The corona­virus pan­dem­ic has had a huge impact on our oper­a­tions. Pas­sen­ger num­bers were way down for a while. They’re now back to an aver­age of 50 to 60 per­cent of where they were, and some­what high­er on a few lines, but we’re still far from nor­mal. It was a huge chal­lenge for all our employ­ees to deal with this extra­or­di­nary sit­u­a­tion, but we suc­ceed­ed in keep­ing Cologne in motion dur­ing that crit­i­cal time.

Along with keep­ing our ser­vices run­ning, our high­est pri­or­i­ty was and con­tin­ues to be pro­tect­ing the health of our employ­ees and our pas­sen­gers to the great­est degree pos­si­ble. For exam­ple, we’ve installed pro­tec­tive screens for our bus dri­vers, dis­trib­uted dis­in­fec­tants and masks to our employ­ees, done addi­tion­al clean­ing and dis­in­fect­ing of our vehi­cles, pro­vid­ed masks to our pas­sen­gers, made sure the masks are worn, and much more. We can say that the vast major­i­ty of our pas­sen­gers are respond­ing to this dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion in a very respon­si­ble way.

The big chal­lenge will be to regain people’s con­fi­dence such that they take buses and trains again with­out hes­i­ta­tion. Var­i­ous stud­ies have shown that pub­lic trans­porta­tion  is safe, and it’s now a mat­ter of get­ting this mes­sage out. One step in that direc­tion is the exten­sive coun­try-wide pub­lic­i­ty cam­paign called #Besser­Weit­er (“Bet­ter­Fur­ther”), launched joint­ly by the fed­er­al and state gov­ern­ments, local umbrel­la orga­ni­za­tions, and mem­bers of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Ger­man Trans­port Com­pa­nies (VDV) like us. But of course it’s also a mat­ter of over­com­ing the enor­mous eco­nom­ic reper­cus­sions of the pan­dem­ic, which affect the entire sec­tor. And we have to refo­cus pub­lic atten­tion on the impor­tant role of pub­lic trans­porta­tion in reduc­ing air pol­lu­tion and pro­tect­ing the cli­mate, in order to achieve the urgent­ly need­ed goal of trans­form­ing transportation.”

Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe …

… provides public transportation in Cologne and the surrounding area, with more than 700 vehicles on twelve municipal rail and sixty-nine bus lines. In 2019, the company reported a record number of 286 million passenger trips. Its network in this metropolis on the Rhine comprises 700 kilometers of bus and rail lines. It also operates 1,500 rental bikes.

DB Station&Service: Investing to make stations safe and inviting

Bernd Koch, Management Board Chairman, DB Station&Service AG Philipp von Recklinghausen

We at DB are pleased to see that more peo­ple are now tak­ing trains againIn order for all our pas­sen­gers to feel safe and at ease at our sta­tions, we’re focus­ing on hygiene, clean­li­ness, and social dis­tanc­ing. We were quick to short­en our clean­ing inter­vals. Mon­i­tors, announce­ments, and posters remind every­one of the new rules. And we’ve installed plex­i­glass screens to pro­tect both our staff and cus­tomers. We’re also test­ing inno­v­a­tive process­es like using UV‑A light to dis­in­fect the hand rails on esca­la­tors. All our employ­ees who have con­tact with cus­tomers wear masks. Our Group-wide cam­paign enti­tled “Safe trav­el. We’ll get there togeth­er.” is show­ing pas­sen­gers that rail trav­el is safe dur­ing this dif­fi­cult peri­od if every­one pulls togeth­er. We’re work­ing togeth­er to increase the per­cent­age of train trav­el, as part of a con­cert­ed effort to trans­form the trans­porta­tion sec­tor.” 

DB Station&Service AG …

… operates, builds, and develops train stations in Germany. With around 6,000 employees, it welcomes about twenty-one million travelers and visitors every day at 5,400 stations, and enables 120 different rail companies to make around 400,000 stops. The company invested approximately €1.3 billion in building and modernizing stations in 2019 alone. 

Automotive industry: Change expected to occur even faster

Coroplast: Rediscovering individual transport

Natalie Mekelburger, President and CEO, Coroplast Coroplast Group

“We saw a dra­mat­ic drop in sales, espe­cial­ly in April and May, by as much as 80 per­cent in some areas. But when the auto­mo­tive sup­ply chain got mov­ing again in June, that had a pos­i­tive effect on us too. Speak­ing for myself, at our daily task force meet­ings I’ve wit­nessed a strong focus on essen­tials, a whole­heart­ed desire to work togeth­er, and rapid advances in the use of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions and collaboration.

We start­ed by get­ting a han­dle on the big pic­ture, and then took spe­cif­ic steps for each site. The focus was on ensur­ing liq­uid­i­ty and reduc­ing costs, but we also reeval­u­at­ed our strate­gies and adapt­ed them where need­ed. One dif­fi­cul­ty had to do with the dif­fer­ing respons­es of indi­vid­ual coun­tries to the pan­dem­ic. While gov­ern­ments in the U.S. and Europe pro­vid­ed funds to cover wages and salaries and pro­duc­tion was able to con­tin­ue, in coun­tries like Mex­i­co pro­duc­tion was sus­pend­ed but wages still had to be paid.

I don’t expect orders in the auto­mo­tive indus­try to reach the level of pre­vi­ous years all that quick­ly, in part due to pol­i­cy-relat­ed devel­op­ments . But I do think there will be a resur­gence in indi­vid­ual trans­port as the most flexible—and safest—way of get­ting around. This is also reflect­ed in devel­op­ments in self-dri­ving vehi­cles. When broad sup­port for our high­ly inno­v­a­tive sec­tor returns, the Ger­man auto­mo­tive indus­try and its core areas of exper­tise will remain a leader on the world mar­ket. It will not only gain ground in soft­ware devel­op­ment but maybe become a leader there too. What’s impor­tant, how­ev­er, is that we as a soci­ety do not become our own great­est obsta­cle by bur­den­ing the auto­mo­tive indus­try with too many reg­u­la­tions and interventions.”

The Coroplast Group …

… is a globally successful family-run company that develops and produces technical adhesive tapes, cables and wiring, and wire harnesses for the automotive industry. The company’s headquarters and main factory are located in the western German city of Wuppertal, and it has subsidiaries and production sites in Poland, China, Tunisia, the U.S., Mexico, and Moldova as well as service centers throughout the world. Coroplast has around 7,000 employees worldwide, and posted sales of around €540 million in 2019.

Mahle: Speeding up the shift to sustainable mobility

Jörg Stratmann, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO, Mahle Group Mahle GmbH

“We’re in an extreme sit­u­a­tion right now—not only with respect to the econ­o­my but also to human safe­ty. Our two pri­or­i­ties are to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble pro­tec­tion against the virus for our employ­ees at around 180 Mahle loca­tions around the world, and to guide Mahle as a com­pa­ny safe­ly through this cri­sis. I’m very happy about the way our employ­ees are deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion. Despite the strain, we’re see­ing high lev­els of com­mit­ment and respon­si­bil­i­ty, also out­side of work. That gives me con­fi­dence and energy.

The spe­cial chal­lenge of this pan­dem­ic is that it moves through dif­fer­ent regions at dif­fer­ent points in time and with dif­fer­ent inten­si­ties. This means we have to keep adapt­ing our strate­gies and adjust­ing the capac­i­ties at our sites in flex­i­ble ways. Thus far that has worked very well. We’ve been able to sup­ply our cus­tomers the entire time.

We’re assum­ing it will take many years for our busi­ness­es to reach pre-Covid lev­els again, and we’re adapt­ing to that right now. At the same time, we’re also work­ing hard on remain­ing the strong part­ner with the right tech­no­log­i­cal prod­ucts for our cus­tomers in the future. Our sec­tor will change even faster in the wake of the virus. But despite the chal­lenges I’m con­vinced it will suc­ceed in this trans­for­ma­tion, and will pro­vide viable solu­tions for sus­tain­able mobil­i­ty and do its part to meet our cli­mate pro­tec­tion targets.”

Mahle …

… is a leading international technological development partner and supplier for the automotive industry. The group seeks to actively shape mobility of the future by further optimizing combustion engines, promoting the use of alternative fuels, and laying the foundations worldwide for the introduction of electric and other drive systems such as fuel cells. Its product portfolio covers all major areas of relevance to powertrains and air-conditioning technology. With more than 77,000 employees at 160 production sites and sixteen large research and development centers in more than thirty countries, Mahle reported sales of around €12 billion in 2019.

Knorr-Bremse: Crisis-proven models for collaboration

Bernd Spies, Executive Board Chairman, Knorr-Bremse Systeme für Nutzfahrzeuge GmbHEnno Kapitza

“When the pan­dem­ic broke out, most of our cus­tomers‘ fac­to­ries essen­tial­ly closed down overnight which also meant our con­tacts were no longer avail­able to han­dle the order-pro­cess­ing sit­u­a­tions. Some of the trucks had to turn around because no one was there to receive deliv­er­ies. I’ve never expe­ri­enced any­thing like that. We imme­di­ate­ly had to define ways of deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion. We quick­ly launched emer­gency oper­a­tions where­by we only pro­duced goods for which we were sure of deliv­ery. Thanks to our out­stand­ing cus­tomer rela­tions and with the help of online meet­ings, we were able to put all the nec­es­sary mea­sures prompt­ly into place, both here and in other regions and countries.

The first pri­or­i­ty has always been to pro­tect the health of our employ­ees. As soon as signs of the epi­dem­ic appeared, we intro­duced the AHA rules (Abstand, Hygiene,
Alltagsmasken—“distance, hygiene, every­day masks”). We mod­i­fied shifts at the fac­to­ries, split teams in the over­head areas, and took many other steps, includ­ing dis­in­fect­ing impor­tant areas mul­ti­ple times a day. That helped us achieve a com­pre­hen­sive level of protection.

I hope the eco­nom­ic slow­down will only be tem­po­rary, so that impor­tant future-ori­ent­ed projects like elec­tro­mo­bil­i­ty and autonomous dri­ving will not suf­fer too much in the process. I also hope we can retain our col­lab­o­ra­tive mod­els to a healthy degree, such as vir­tu­al and mobile modes of work, which have now proved them­selves in a cri­sis. And of course I’m hop­ing to meet our cus­tomers in per­son again soon.”

Knorr-Bremse …

… is the world’s leading supplier of braking and additional systems for rail and commercial vehicles. It reported sales of more than €6.9 billion in 2019. Headquartered in Munich and with 29,000 employees at more than one hundred locations in over thirty countries, the company helps to bring greater safety, efficiency, and reliability to roads and railways.

Würth: Fear is not a good companion in crises

Robert Friedmann, Chairman of the Central Managing Board, Würth Group Frank Blümler

“In light of the pan­dem­ic, the Würth Group is very sat­is­fied with its sta­ble devel­op­ment over the first half of the year. Total sales for the Würth Group declined by 3.1 per­cent com­pared to the same peri­od of last year, and remained at near­ly the same level for Ger­many. Because skilled crafts and trades are essen­tial activ­i­ties, and because we had suc­cess­ful­ly estab­lished a dig­i­tal infra­struc­ture for our order and sup­ply process­es in pre­vi­ous years, we did not expe­ri­ence any bot­tle­necks and remained capa­ble of mak­ing deliv­er­ies at all times.

My per­son­al insight from the early days of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic is that the media—in the words of Peter Weibel, who heads the Cen­ter for Art and Media in Karlsruhe—are like echo cham­bers that ampli­fy actu­al events. That affects people’s moods, and fear is not a good com­pan­ion in crises. I there­fore tried to remain opti­mistic, and to rely on the strength of our com­pa­ny. Con­fi­dence in the power of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is anoth­er impor­tant fac­tor that has proved effec­tive over recent months.

Work­ing with many sec­tors and busi­ness fields gives us a high degree of agency and agili­ty, which in turn enables us to respond prompt­ly to any mar­ket trends or changes such as those brought by the corona­virus. Our low share of the mar­ket means we have enor­mous poten­tial for growth, so I’m con­fi­dent that we will grow and gain fur­ther shares of the mar­ket over the next decade. With our cor­po­rate strat­e­gy and the expe­ri­ence we’ve gained from this pan­dem­ic, I’m also con­vinced we can han­dle any crises in the future.”

The Würth Group …

… is the world leader in sales of assembly and fastening materials. Headquartered in the southern German town of Künzelsau, it has more than 78,000 employees  at more than 400 subsidiaries in over eighty countries. More than 33,000 of them are permanently employed sales representatives. Its core business, the Würth Line, contains more than 125,000 products for trades and industry, including everything from screws, screw accessories, and anchors to tools, chemical-technical products, and personal protective equipment.

Silvercar Inc.: Focus on new opportunities

Matt Carpenter, CEO Silvercar Inc.
Matt Carpenter, CEO Silvercar Inc.PR/Silvercar

“COVID-19 has impact­ed every Amer­i­can busi­ness, includ­ing Sil­ver­car by Audi and Deal­er­ware. While demand at our air­port rental loca­tions is sig­nif­i­cant­ly lower, our city loca­tions have never been stronger. On the Deal­er­ware side, the market’s need for dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences is stronger than ever. The com­bi­na­tion of strength­en­ing car rental demand in cities (from dis­placed mass trans­porta­tion demand) and the accel­er­at­ed need for con­tact­less expe­ri­ences rep­re­sents a huge oppor­tu­ni­ty for our company.

Our focus has always been on new oppor­tu­ni­ties. We have lever­aged our Sil­ver­car and Deal­er­ware assets to pre­pare for a new go-to-mar­ket strat­e­gy that has allowed us to shift Silvercar’s rental expe­ri­ence into the deal­er­ship. Our aim is to cre­ate a sin­gle screen for our deal­er part­ners to man­age all of their fleet needs. A vehi­cle at the deal­er­ship can be a cour­tesy vehi­cle, a rental car, an extend­ed test-drive, or even part of a sub­scrip­tion pro­gram. We’re con­fi­dent in this new strat­e­gy and our abil­i­ty to deliver.

Across the entire indus­try, OEMs and deal­ers are look­ing at the mar­ket­place dif­fer­ent­ly. We have seen more accel­er­a­tion in the past six months on strate­gic road maps and man­age­ment mind­sets than we had expect­ed over the next few years. I see the market’s mobil­i­ty needs increas­ing but vehi­cle own­er­ship decreas­ing. The next decade will be won by the con­nect­ed fleet and the mobil­i­ty prod­ucts and ser­vices enabled by fleet oper­a­tors. We believe that OEMs have every right to build and scale daily, week­ly, and month­ly mobil­i­ty for con­sumers. Deal­er­ships across the indus­try have all of the oper­a­tional require­ments to enable mobil­i­ty at scale, includ­ing fleets, oper­a­tional hubs, and staff trained to deliv­er a great cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. I hope that the indus­try finds the con­fi­dence to pur­sue new go-to-mar­ket strate­gies in the inter­est of new cus­tomer demand.”

Silvercar Inc. …

… is paving the way for the future of mobility in automotive industry. The company’s software platform connects cars, consumers, and dealerships, eliminating the cost and complexity associated with managing fleets and delivering exceptional mobility experiences. Silvercar Inc. currently manages over 30,000 vehicles, across twenty-six OEM brands throughout North America.

Porsche: Focus on solidarity and essentials

Oliver Blume, Chairman of the Executive Board, Porsche AG PR/Porsche AG

“Our goal is to get through this crit­i­cal peri­od in a sys­tem­at­ic and respon­si­ble way. That includes how we respond­ed very early on. As soon as we saw what the virus was doing in China, we con­vened a coun­cil of experts at Porsche. This coun­cil is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion around the clock, and has been mak­ing quite a few deci­sions. Our high­est pri­or­i­ty is always on pro­tect­ing the health of our employ­ees. We make no com­pro­mis­es in this regard. The health of our com­mu­ni­ty is of para­mount importance.

At first we planned to stop pro­duc­tion for only two weeks. But it ended up being six weeks. One of the rea­sons had to do with bot­tle­necks in the glob­al sup­ply chains. That was very painful. But we won’t be deterred: we’re look­ing ahead and want to get back up to speed as soon as the cri­sis is over. I see major oppor­tu­ni­ties for Porsche in the future. Over the last few years we’ve launched a huge prod­uct cam­paign, includ­ing the Tay­can at the end of 2019. It gives us a superb foun­da­tion to build on.

The opti­mism I see in so many peo­ple as they go about their work makes me con­fi­dent about the future. Every­one is focus­ing on the essen­tials, and sup­port­ing each other. And it’s times like this that pro­duce dreams and needs. There might even be a greater need for sports cars when the cri­sis is over—that at least would be my wish.”

Fewer Flights, Better Quality

Porsche Con­sult­ing con­duct­ed a rep­re­sen­ta­tive sur­vey of Ger­man air-trav­el­ers in May 2020. The results show that the days of pri­or­i­tiz­ing price are gone.

Half of air travelers are cutting back

Which flights are truly necessary? Both business travelers and tourists are asking themselves this question. Fifty percent of our survey’s respondents intend to cut back on planned flights.


Half of German travelers are cutting back on planned flights. The breakdown in detail: 4 percent are cutting a few flights, 5 percent are cutting half of them, 4 percent are eliminating most, and 37 percent are canceling all their flights. Cars and trains will be used for trips that are absolutely necessary.

Fun factor
No longer attractive

This change in thinking by tourists is having a serious effect on vacations and short trips. Respondents say short flights are no longer attractive, with women even more likely to hold this opinion.

Fun factor

Travelers intending to fly less are starting by changing their vacation plans. More than half of Germans are canceling their entire vacation trips or using other means of transportation (women: 65 percent, men: 50 percent). Even the cheap flights for weekend excursions so popular before the pandemic are considerably less in demand.

Cost factor
Willing to pay for quality

Many air travelers would pay more if that enabled them to avoid unpleasant mass check-in procedures and crowded flights, and instead enjoy greater health protection measures, more space, and better service.

Cost factor

Sixty-six percent of air travelers surveyed would pay more to have cabins thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each flight. Sixty-one percent would pay for more space between seats, and 57 percent would accept charges for empty adjacent seats. Twelve percent reject all higher costs.

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