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"Everyone is now contributing according to their strengths”

Porsche, like so many others, has seen the coronavirus crisis halt the assembly lines for weeks. Minister Presidents Winfried Kretschmann and Michael Kretschmer talk to CEO Oliver Blume about daily crisis management, personal sacrifices and the lessons we may learn for a post-coronavirus era.

Gentlemen, is the coronavirus crisis changing the relationship between the state and business?

Around 350 companies have already answered my call to the business world with offers to support us in producing protective equipment and medical apparatus – an overwhelming response. If companies like Porsche or Daimler help to procure protective clothing and fly in face masks from China, that is quite fantastic.

Do companies now have to compensate for what politicians failed to do by not making adequate preparations?

Blume: No, I see that differently. And in a positive sense: everyone is now contributing according to their strengths. So “what if” discussions do not help. The cooperation at our different locations with the state of Baden-Württemberg and Free State of Saxony is outstanding. We will successfully overcome the crisis together – politicians, business and society are all making a joint contribution to this end.

We are also learning to value the benefits of global companies; for example, Porsche has a very different network in China than we as a state government could ever have. That helps enormously in getting aid supplies to Germany.

What can a manufacturer of luxury sports cars contribute when it comes to health?

Blume: We have checked in our surroundings and with the state authorities where the concrete needs are greatest and what help can be provided quickly. For example, consultants from Porsche Consulting are supporting the crisis management teams of both federal states, and our IT specialists from MHP are also helping out. In addition, we are organising the supply chains for protective clothing, and are donating equipment from our stocks, as well as money for hospitals and food for food banks: we have increased the budget for donations by five million euros. We have set up a platform to organise all this: for Germany, but also worldwide.

How long can we keep up this exceptional state of affairs? What are the chances of it being relaxed after Easter?

Kretschmer: I say to all those who are getting impatient: we have to keep these measures in place for as long as necessary. We have so far avoided patients lying helplessly in hospital corridors.

Kretschmann: At the back of our minds we are naturally thinking about the fact that the measures to contain the pandemic are damaging the economy. But if the crisis were to allowed to take its course in an uncontrolled way, that would damage both people and businesses to an immeasurably greater extent. That is why we can only ask people to be patient. The possibility of relaxing the measures depends on how the number of infected people develops, and on how much test capacity and how many intensive care beds we can organise. We are working hard on this: the Minister-Presidents will meet straight after Easter, and we will see then whether we can start to lift the measures in a foreseeable period.

Will Porsche survive the shutdown without state aid?

Blume: Yes, we will. We have only applied for assistance for around 1/3 of the workforce, those working reduced hours like in many other companies. That is not state aid, but an insurance benefit that employers and employees have paid into the Federal Agency themselves over years. Overall, we have solid liquidity that is sufficient for several months, but which is naturally also finite. I am more concerned about our global suppliers and our retail partners: how stable are they, how long will their liquidity last?

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Apr 14, 2020 at 01:11

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