Chairman of the Board of Management at AUDI HUNGARIA Zrt., Alfons Dintner, has kindly agreed to give Hungary Today an exclusive interview outlining the major transformation that the venerable automotive company is currently going through. We have asked the Győr industrial complex’s boss to address issues such as the transition to electric vehicles, the business environment in Hungary, or developing the company’s future managers from amidst Hungarian talent.
– The car industry is going through a major transformation like never before. There is a tangible tension between consumer demand and the tenets of the so-called green transformation. What is Audi’s vision in this regard, how would the company go about balancing today’s market-demands with our responsibility towards our future?
We are convinced that economic success and sustainability go hand in hand. With this in mind, we have made ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) one of the central elements of our new Next Level Strategy. Our company has been CO2 neutral in balance sheet terms since 2020, and we are permanently working to continuously reduce the environmental footprint of our activities. The automotive industry is undergoing the biggest transformation process in its history, at the end of which only those manufacturers can remain competitive that can coordinate economic performance with sustainability.
– Combustion engines are being phased out in the EU just when they have become incredibly efficient in terms of their environmental impact. Do you think that we should rethink their future, or is EV the correct path ahead?
Audi has set itself a clear direction, which says: The future is electric. AUDI AG’s e-mobility strategy envisages phasing out the production of combustion engines by 2033. That is a clear target date, so we have enough time to adapt our employees and our production to it. Until then, we are still working to continuously improve the efficiency of our internal combustion engines. We can do both.
Photo: Audi Hungaria
– What is Audi’s Hungarian development and manufacturing infrastructure role in the transition to EV’s?
Audi Hungaria is the central site of the Audi Group’s electric engine production. The transition to electromobility is in full swing in our company; after all, we have been producing electric drives since 2018. An important milestone was the announcement last year that we would also produce a new series of electric drives, the MEBeco, in addition to the soon-to-be-launched PPE (Premium Platform Electric). We are expanding the vertical range of manufacturing for these new products, which also gives us new competencies.
– In a recent Hungarian survey, four out of top five reasons for leaving a company, employees have listed their dissatisfaction with the management. What are the leading principles of Audi’s management culture that you could hold up as specific to your company?
At Audi Hungaria, we strive for an open and dialog-oriented corporate culture. A very good example of this is the development and implementation of our Next Level Strategy, which I mentioned earlier and which we are currently living. For me, it was and is particularly important that the Next Level Strategy does not become a strategy dictated “from the ivory tower,” but a strategy of Audi Hungaria’s team for Audi Hungaria. We are already involving staff from every responsibility level in the Next Level Strategy, and we will actively involve all employees in the strategy process over the next few years. You are the experts in your areas, thus your opinion / expertise, but also your flexibility are needed more than ever. Our declared goal is to inspire all employees to actively shape the future of Audi Hungaria with enthusiasm. It is very important for us to ensure a working environment in which professional development, the balance between life and work as well as high-tech solutions and innovative work can be optimally implemented. We have always offered safe workplaces and this is highly appreciated by our employees. Proof of this is that this year we have been selected once again as the most attractive employer in Hungary.
– How do you select your future leaders and how do you develop them? What are you primarily looking for, and what are the company’s criteria for establishing merit?
Entrepreneurship, solution-oriented thinking and humanity are extremely important to me. I have never said no to a challenging task or position in my entire life. My expectations are professional competence, willingness to take risks, courage and encouraging and integrating self-confidence as well as an affinity to international cultures and cooperation. I believe that good performance and a constructive team spirit will move us and our company forward. I have always found particularly interesting the things that others considered unfeasible – I expect this spirit in our company. The management of Audi Hungaria is also characterized by this mentality, which drives the company forward and provides the right answers to today’s challenges. As part of our human resources strategy, we attach great importance to the qualification of managers, not only in terms of technical skills, but also in terms of management and leadership skills. However, we continuously train not only our management, but also all our employees, as their knowledge and skills are key to the success of our company. Only inspired employees can build inspiring products.
– There were some companies that have arrived in the 90s looking for cheap labor that have moved on to cheaper countries since the labor force in Hungary has become better paid and harder to find. Clearly, Audi does not think in terms of just the cheapest common denominator, but what is it that makes the Hungarian business environment still an economical option for long-term investment?
Thirty years ago, AUDI AG selected Győr from 180 possible locations; this decision was made on the basis of numerous factors such as industrial traditions, the availability of a skilled workforce, the appropriate infrastructure and the investment-friendly economic environment. Since its foundation, our company has invested more than 12 billion euros and has become a mainstay of the Volkswagen Group’s global production network. Hungary ensures a stable economic environment, and overall an investment-friendly climate. For the competitiveness of Hungary as an industrial location, it is important that the general conditions are suitable and valid in the long term. These include industrial sites with an excellent infrastructure, economic efficiency, good logistical connections, the possibility of almost 100% utilization of the invested capital, and the professional competence of the Hungarian workforce.
Photo: Audi Hungaria
– Finally, German car manufacturing is getting ever tougher global competition, not only in terms of prices, but also in quality and technological advances. The arrival of EV has leveled the technological playing eve further, and the German car industry is facing a Swiss watch type of moment, when digital has arrived in the 70s. The Swiss’ solution was to redefine the role of watch and transform its image, instead of trying to create a mechanical movement more accurate than digital. What is your approach?
As I am a passionate watch collector, this example fits particularly well: because the competition is getting bigger, new players are constantly entering the market, the general conditions are changing, so it is a big challenge to stay competitive. It is important to serve the needs of our customers and our society with our cars, as cars are not just functional but also very individual and emotional objects, and they also provide a networked mobility service. Yes, they even contribute to a livable world. In my opinion, the role of individual transportation, the role of individualization and the need for sustainable solutions will increase significantly in the future, to which Audi and the entire Progressive brand group will provide the appropriate answers. I am confident that we will be a decisive player in the new era of the automotive industry, and Audi Hungaria, in particular, will make a significant contribution.
Featured Photos: AUDI HUNGARIA Zrt.