The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the global economy hard and analysts are saying the slowdown due to the impact of Coronavirus will be worst than the 2008 financial crisis. The automobile industry globally is struggling to keep their plants active and sell vehicles. Here's what Skoda Auto CEO Bernhard Maier has to say on the current challenges and consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and looking ahead.
How hard has the coronavirus crisis hit Skoda?
Our global sales markets have been severely affected. This means that we’re currently generating very little revenue, while our fixed costs remain the same. This is an enormous burden. In the coming days and weeks, it will be crucial for society as a whole to strike the right balance between providing the best possible protection for citizens from the virus and securing the economy and jobs.
Can you estimate the financial consequences of the coronavirus pandemic?
No, it’s much too early for that. On the positive side, we have been operating profitably and currently have sufficient liquidity. For years, we’ve been producing at our capacity limit. That’s why, unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to entirely make up for the loss of production this year. All the more reason for us to hope that the coronavirus pandemic can be contained as quickly as possible so that we can supply the many customers waiting for our cars. I’d like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to all the Škodians who are handling this situation so well.
Companies are providing support for society in various ways. What is Skoda doing?
We’re helping in several ways. For example, our Technical Development Department is producing 3D-printed reusable FFP3 respirators in collaboration with the Research and Innovation Centre on Advanced Industrial Production (RICAIP) and the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC), which are urgently needed in Czech hospitals. In India, too, where we’re responsible for the Group, our colleagues at the Pune plant are producing face shields that are being donated to doctors.
When production is restarted, how do you intend to protect your employees’ health?
We’re currently working on a ‘Safe Production’ and ‘Safe Office’ concept to provide the best possible protection for all our employees and especially those working in close proximity to one another, for example, in production. The concept includes extensive protective measures, such as face masks and disinfectants. These are already in place for all those who are carrying out urgent and necessary work during the shutdown.