CFO Stefan Tschol gives us an insight into the business situation for the second half of the year and the learnings and efficiency programs resulting from the crisis.
Mr. Tschol, how did Hirschmann Automotive fare during the second quarter?
The plant closures forced on some of our major customers due to the coronavirus led to Hirschmann Automotive suffering a double-figure fall in sales in the USA and Europe. However, there was also a ray of hope in the second quarter in the form of the Chinese market, which had been affected earlier on by the pandemic and where our company was already back on track in terms of our planned volume of sales.
After the clear fall in sales in April and May, there was already a slight yet discernible recovery under way in the worst-affected markets in June. Luckily, our supply chains were never disrupted in the way that we feared initially.
What do you think the rest of the year holds?
The upward trend that began in June gives us grounds for optimism – as much as circumstances allow – in terms of the second half of the year, after initially reckoning with a much greater fall in sales, including during the summer months.
This currently slightly optimistic outlook for the second half of the year is, however, predicated on certain assumptions, namely that the measures being implemented globally to combat the pandemic prove effective, that the situation remains under control in terms of the virus, and that the course of the pandemic doesn’t again result in the brakes being applied to the current development.
What have you learned from the coronavirus crisis?
We have certainly discovered the potential of working from home, virtual meetings, and other digital communication platforms, and how much efficiency there is to be gained by utilizing these tools. I think that these insights will have a lasting effect into the future, such as on the scope of our travel activities.
However, I can’t help but point out that we have also come up against the limitation of the above-named tools in everyday working life – interpersonal contact continues to be important, and not every item on the agenda can be dealt with (efficiently) using virtual tools.
What kind of efficiency programs have you introduced?
We are in a competitive environment and are therefore permanently required to be innovative, to continuously upgrade our technology, optimize our processes, adjust our structures, automate production and administration workflows, and reduce costs so that we can continue to compete. In this context, we already have an ongoing efficiency program in place. We will therefore continue working to gain cost advantages by utilizing our global footprint in order to offer our products at competitive prices.
What is the atmosphere like at Hirschmann Automotive?
Despite the developments in recent months, I sense a very positive atmosphere within the company. I have to give great credit here to the employees at Hirschmann Automotive, who have really got behind all the measures we have had to adopt in recent months, conscientiously adhered to the coronavirus regulations, and shown great loyalty to the company.
This positive mood is, of course, not least down to the fact that everyone has noticed the uptick on the production side over the past few weeks.
Yet again, we see just how accurate our slogan is: “WE ARE CONNECTED BY PASSION.”