Up Close with Dr. Degenhart
An interview with a difference
Chairman of the Executive Board of Continental AG since 2009, contract extended until 2024, previously held various managerial positions at automotive suppliers. A strong communicator, determined, competent, level-headed and sportive – these are the attributes for which the head of the technology company from Hanover is known.
However, we want to find out more about the man Elmar Degenhart, so we asked him questions not only about mobility but also other questions that he probably hasn’t had to answer before.
Dr. Degenhart, the Continental motto for the IAA 2017 was “making mobility a great place to live.” What does a great place to live look like to you?
The best places are those that suit my intentions and are geared toward my needs. Sometimes, these are places for coming together with other people for creative exchange and collaboration. Other times, they are places of quiet retreat and concentration. Whether in the office, at home, in the great outdoors or on the move in the car, it all depends on the right balance.
Can you name some places that are already a great place to live for you?
Anywhere with my family and in the car. In automated vehicles, it will be possible to engage with one another even more intensively in the future.
How does the mobility of the future look to you as a great place to live?
Mobility that gets me where I want to go on time – safely, cleanly and stress-free. Future mobility will be more efficient and environmentally friendly than today, therefore giving future generations more – not fewer – opportunities to realize their own plans and goals. The boundaries between transport systems will become blurred as a result of their full connectivity as well as those between the office, living room and car. Mobility is becoming a living space. In the future, driving will no longer limit or disrupt my communication. My car will be my companion, which I speak to almost like a friend who supports and protects me. It plans optimal routes in real time, books my required means of transport in the connected mobility ecosystem, informs meeting participants of my arrival in advance and ensures I have enough time to take a breath before the meeting begins.
What was your first personal experience of mobility? A tricycle, a go-kart, roller skates or a mountain bike?
It all began in the classic way with the baby stroller pushed by my parents. However, my first experience of independent mobility was a tricycle.
What was your first car? Do you know what the power output and consumption was?
It was a beige, 1970 Opel Kadett Coupé. Power output – 33 kilowatts. With regular gasoline, the consumption was about 9 liters per 100 kilometers. Price back then – DM 1,950. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford the Monte-Carlo Rallye version. Best of all, with my 13-mm ring spanner, I could perform most of the necessary repairs on the car myself.
My first car was a beige, 1970Dr. Elmar Degenhart,
Opel Kadett Coupé.
Chairman of the Executive Board of Continental
When and where do you use electromobility to get around?
Most of my journeys are on the freeway. As a result of this, I only drive using electricity on rare occasions and for test purposes. However, an electric car is high on my list of future purchases.
On the subject of fuel, what fuels you personally?
People – with their strength, ideas, diversity and openness.
You studied aerospace engineering in Stuttgart. Automotive versus aerospace – are they different worlds or do they have more in common than one might think?
Both worlds have a lot in common. Both are concerned with taking safe mobility to the limits of what is technically possible and both open up a universe of new ideas, innovations and opportunities.
What would you have done if you weren’t an engineer?
I would have been a pilot – exciting flying and safe landing.
What engineering achievement do you particularly admire?
Apart from the wheel, and related to more recent history, the first manned moon landing in July 1969. It really was a giant leap for mankind.
As the head of a corporation, you are very much in demand. What do you find is the best way to relax and recharge your batteries?
Always spending time with my family, as well as enjoying nature and playing sport.
When you have time to read, what book are you reading at the moment?
No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends” by Richard Dobbs, James Manyika and Jonathan Woetzel, the directors of the McKinsey Global Institute. The most important insight I have gained: “In the decades ahead, half of the world’s economic growth will come from 440 cities that most executives today would be hard-pressed to locate on a map.
You can access the executive biography of Dr. Elmar Degenhart and other members of the Executive Board of Continental here.
Continental Magazine Issue 2/2017