Alex Vaszi is heading Porsche BH, a subsidiary of the Austrian Porsche Holding, the biggest automobile retailer in Europe with the headquarters in Salzburg. The company was established by the children of Ferdinand Porsche, Louise Piëch and Ferry Porsche, laying the foundation for development of a successful holding back in 1949, when they initiated the import and distribution of Volkswagen Beetle in Austria.
Porsche Holding, Alex Vaszi’s employer for the past 23 years, currently operates in 25 countries across Europe, in addition to its operation in South America and China. The company’s way of work creates the impression skilfully presented by the world renowned author, Canadian professor at the Faculty of Management, Henry Mintzberg, who once described it as a place where art, science and craftsmanship meet.
“The reason I stayed with this company for so long can be attributed to its values, which more or less correspond to the values I personally hold dear. Throughout my career, I was presented with new challenges. In my 23 years with the company, I spent two in Slovenia, nine in Hungary, two in Albania, six in Macedonia and Kosovo, a brief period of time in Chile and, as this project was initiated in BiH, I joined the team in Sarajevo”, says Director Vaszi, as we open the interview. STRONG FIELD OF BUSINESS
What made the adaptation to BiH market necessary?
My prior experience of working in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe was of great use in terms of entering the area of BiH and initiating implementation of this very important project. My modest knowledge of the Balkan region also helped. Every time you enter a new country, you must consider many important facts, making sure you avoid restricting your considerations only to the facts of relevance to the automobile market. All circumstances matter. In addition to market developments, one must consider legal, social and political environment, all of which are of critical importance to any decision to enter a particular country.
What are your most important achievements in BiH, so far?
We are in the business for 11 months and many changes took place in that time. I would first like to comment on the visual changes of the Volkswagen showroom, and also in Porsche. These changes affected Seat and Skoda brands as well. Skoda showroom has been modernised recently. We organised a small ceremony to present a new corporate identity in BiH. We can therefore claim that Sarajevo is the home of important projects.
Porsche BH distributes six brands: VW personal vehicles, VW commercial vehicles, Skoda, Seat, Audi and Porsche. Which brands are the most popular among buyers?
As expected, the most popular, on one side of the spectrum is Volkswagen, followed by Skoda on another side of the spectrum. The tradition that Volkswagen and Skoda have here has great impact on trade and business. It is important to note that as much as 30% of the market share of personal vehicles belongs to these two brands, which is exceptional, especially in comparison with other countries.
Which vehicle do you prefer and what do people close to you think of your driving skills?
You should probably ask my wife (laughs). Honestly, I love it when my wife gets behind the wheel. It is interesting for me to observe how women perceive development of a car and I very much enjoy their fascination with what a certain car can do. One analysis pointed to something rather interesting. It turned out that a woman always plays an important role in making a decision about a car. When it comes to different models, I am a lucky man, because I can drive any model this company has to offer. There are times when I drive Volkswagen Up, but when it becomes necessary, I gladly sit behind the wheel of Porsche Cayman, and I have no problem with either of the two, or with any other car for that matter. I represent all brands and I love them all. Of course, we all face different situations and we should act accordingly. If you prefer a sports model there are Porsche and Audi, if you, on the other hand, want something practical, than there is Golf, for instance.
The world is changing rapidly. How do you see the future of the automobile industry?
Mobility will always be central topic. Mobility and automobiles, same as before, will continue to be strong field of business. We already have hybrid cars, electric cars, we have different systems to assist drivers, such as lane change assistance and parking assistance. All you need to do is press a button and the car parks on its own. The popularity and availability of these systems will continue to grow. We will get to a time when it will become possible to switch to auto pilot mode and the car will drive on its own.
BALANCE IN LIFE
You come from Salzburg, but you are of Hungarian descent. Which identity feels closer?
My parents emigrated from Hungary to Austria 60 years ago. I was born in Austria. I was educated there; I attended school there and graduated from university. I also speak Hungarian and I met my wife while I was working in Hungary. She is Hungarian, but interestingly enough, her father is Austrian and her grandmother is Italian. I perceive her as a typical European woman. Ever since I started travelling a lot and living in different countries, I started feeling as a European. If somebody was to ask me where I want to live when I retire, I would say that I would most probably go back home, to Austria, because that’s where I was born, that’s where I went to school, that’s where my friends are. But I always had a life of my own, regardless of where I lived. The same is true here. If you chose tolerance, respect and broad horizons, you will find a home anywhere you go.
Your colleagues say that you are very outgoing that that you have many friends. What kind of people surround you?
First and foremost, I have an open mind. I am not the kind of person who sits in the office all day waiting for people to come in. I go out, I live my life. In addition to work, I have my private life too. I meet business people, people who enjoy the same hobbies; I sometimes unwind with my colleagues over beer, or do something else with them.
You enjoy hiking and you go to a different place almost every other weekend. What is your experience of the mountains in BiH?
It is just one of my many passions. I love my work, but I understand that I must maintain balance in life. Sports activities contribute to that balance. When you’re surrounded by beautiful mountains, you become eager to visit and experience them. That is a way to explore the country and its culture. I am a guest here, but I want to understand how this country, these people and this culture function. Hiking enables you to meet other people. Along the way, I admire the gorgeous landscapes. What I love about this country is that people speak the languages I speak – German or English, which enables me to express myself well, although I started learning Bosnian too.
You live in Sarajevo since 2013. How do you perceive it?
Even while I worked in Skopje, I kept hearing comments from colleagues about how beautiful BiH was and how interesting Sarajevo was. Before I relocated here, I spent several weekends in this country. It was fascinating for me to experience the culture and observe the remnants of different historical periods present all over the city. It was incredible experience for me to feel the different influences and mentalities. In addition, BiH has delicious cuisine, great theatre, wonderfully diverse cultural life. Sometimes I attend exhibitions because I enjoy being a part of such events. For me, it is a way to learn more about the country and understand the mentality and the people here.
Do you often think about the future?
I am an entrepreneur and I did not enter BiH without a goal or a plan. It is same as driving a car. When you drive from Sarajevo to Neum, for example, in addition to the destination, your plan should include the time, amount of fuel, a place to stop and have a break, but you also have to take into account other possible circumstances, like the weather. If it rains, you will have to reduce the speed. The same planning process applies to my work, but many years of experience help me adapt my behaviour and understand better what to expect as I run the company.