For companies listed on the stock exchange, there are certain structures, duties and tasks for which the supervisory board is responsible. Chair Wilko Stark and Vice-Chair Martina Buchhauser talk in an interview about Sono Motors’ strengths and what challenges the company still has to overcome in coming years.
Julius: Hello Wilko, hi Martina. I’m glad that we were able to meet today. Could you possibly introduce yourselves to our readers?
Wilko: Thank you for having us! My name is Wilko Stark and in the future I will be acting as Chair of the Sono Motors’ Supervisory Board.
Martina: Pleased to meet you! I am Martina Buchhauser and am the Supervisory Board Vice-Chair, as well as a member of two of the respective Supervisory Board committees.
Julius: A warm welcome to you! You’ve both been working in the automotive industry for a very long time and have broad expertise in your respective fields. Can you briefly outline your respective career paths?
Martina: I started my career at Opel, which was still part of General Motors at that time. Over the years, I made a significant contribution to the development of component and organizational globalization, also at the HQ in the USA. At MAN I had overall purchasing responsibility for trucks and buses and at BMW I was responsible for interior and electrics/electronics as well as in-house seat and instrument panel production. Until recently, I was Chief Procurement Officer and part of the Board of Volvo Cars in Sweden. There, I was primarily involved in the transformation to sustainable electromobility and the associated battery capacity assurance, competitive costs, and a responsible and CO2-reduced supply chain.
Wilko: I started my career at the Boston Consulting Group. I thereafter worked for Volkswagen AG as head of product planning, and later as product lead at Seat S.A in Barcelona. In 2012. I moved to Daimler AG as product and module lead Daimler Trucks. In 2013. I became head of Daimler Group strategy as well as product planning Mercedes-Benz cars. In 2017, I added responsibility for the CASE (connected, autonomous, shared, electric) activities as well as new e-vehicle planning at Mercedes-Benz cars. I was then, in 2018, appointed to the divisional board for Mercedes-Benz cars for purchasing and supplier quality. In the meantime, I am an active member of supervisory boards in several companies with a focus on renewable energy, e-mobility and automotive. In that respect, I am very happy to support Sono Motors’ mission in this way.
Julius: These are both very impressive career journeys. Both of you have had a lot of contact with e-mobility. We are of course delighted that we were able to win you and your expertise for the supervisory board. How did you become aware of Sono Motors and what sparked your interest?
Martina: I was made aware of your by a long-term business partner. When you’ve been working in a field for a very long time, like I have, then you are naturally always on the look for new challenges. We were soon able to get to know one another and I must say that I was inspired by the vision quite quickly. Just to say that we are developing a car primarily from the drive to make sustainability more accessible - that impressed me. I am particularly interested in your approach to reducing complexity, especially with regard to more resilient supply chains. In other words, to outsource what needs to be outsourced, for example vehicle production, but also to develop the car from what really matters to the customer. What are the standards I can use that aren’t differentiated for the customer - keyword: carry-over parts. How can we create more efficient, resource-saving and cost effective solutions, and thereby offer customers an experience that makes the world simpler, more sustainable and more connected for them? I got to know and realised that you simply have a very promising approach in this respect.
Wilko: I see it similarly, although I also find the individual features of the vehicle very exciting. Similar to Martina, I was brought into contact with you through a business partner, even though I had heard of Sono Motors myself. You, of course, always follow what other competitors are doing and which technologies could become interesting in the future. When it comes to solar cells in vehicles, you can hardly move past Sono Motors. On one hand you have the Sion and on the other the technology itself. I am firmly convinced that electrification will not stop at trucks, trailers and buses — especially when it comes to auxiliary equipment or refrigeration units. It is, needless to say, an advantage if you are able to generate electricity with the right solar technology. That’s what immediately interested me in Sono.
Julius: So on the one hand, the focus is more on sustainable supply chains, and on the other, the novel solar technology. We often emphasize that despite some significant milestones, some hurdles to overcome remain before the Sion’s launch and our technology is ready for series production. Where do you see the biggest opportunities and the biggest risks for Sono?
Wilko: I think what convinced me — and I think I speak for Martina as well — is concurrently one of the company’s greatest strengths: its spirit. Even though Sono is a very young company, it has come so far already. We saw this most recently with the successful IPO. Here it must be said — respect. You have a clear vision and an incredibly strong team that really pulls together. This is the only real way to manage such a massive task.
Martina: Yes, absolutely. This pioneering spirit that drives the founders and the team, that makes the company very unique. That’s exactly what inspires the people out there. You started with a blank canvas. You are not faced with the challenges that having to reinvent oneself brings, like many established companies. It has to be said, the current transformation that the automotive industry is currently undergoing is unprecedented. But you are already one step ahead of the curve. At the same time though, Sono cannot rely on processes that have been perfected over decades. This is, of course, a big challenge.
Wilko: Exactly. Successfully launching a product on the market is never easy. This is true for every start-up — even in the automotive sector. Industrializing a product, delivering it to the customer and generating demand are definitely challenges that Sono is still to face. You have, however, already done the groundwork in this regard. You have a strong Community behind you that believes in your product, as well as a clear development roadmap.
Martina: And now to the supervisory board, whose members will bring their experience and expertise to meet this challenge head on.
Julius: Which brings me to my next question: what exactly will your tasks be in the future?
Wilko: For companies listed on the stock exchange, there are certain structures, duties and tasks for which the supervisory board is responsible. First of all, we have a supervisory duty towards the company. Our task is to ensure that all the necessary rules that apply to Sono Motors are complied with. In addition to this is our responsibility to safeguard the interests of the company and the shareholders.
There are various committees for this, for example an audit committee, in which annual financial statements are reviewed and formally approved. Furthermore, there is a nomination committee. This is where the supervisory board officially appoints management and the board members and also discusses contracts. In simple terms, a supervisory board is a control body that approves and monitors corporate strategy and financing frameworks.
Julius: That means Sono particularly benefits from your expertise here?
Wilko: Of course, we want to provide advice and support. Operationally, the board of directors is responsible.
Martina: In addition to what legal regulations generally require of a supervisory board, we want to contribute our respective backgrounds and also act as sparring partners for management. After all, the corporate strategy is supposed to be sustainable and, above all, long-term. I think that here the supervisory board brings a lot of experience to the table, especially with a team in the industry that has never worked together in this way. We can complement each other very well here and work together to ensure that the ambitions that Sono Motors has as a company also become a reality.
Wilko: All the members of the supervisory board are already very excited to work with one another. In addition to the two of us, this also includes Sebastain Böttger as the Community representative, Robert Jeffe as Audit Chair and Johannes Trischler as employee representative.
Julius: And we are so happy to have you on board. Thank you for your time! We are all very excited about the future together.