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Beyond #shifthappens: Interview with our partner Konrad Martin

Beyond #shifthappens is dedicated to people who accompany and support companies and employees every day in their important change processes. Nordantech Co-Founder Christian Kuhs talks to his guests about consulting, their exciting career paths, ups and downs and of course transformation!

In the current episode, our partner Konrad Martin tells us about his career start in the automotive industry and his personal path to becoming a partner at comes. He talks about the right employee mix and his enjoyment of change. What are the challenges in restructuring consulting? Does consulting fit the Y/Z generation?

Click here to listen to the podcast!

Podcast Beyond #shifthappens

Outlook on 2021

Welche Themen beschäftigen die Wirtschaft 2021?

Probably no one expected the course of 2020 in this form. Instead of addressing global trends, many companies had to face Covid-19 and not everyone will survive the crisis. With the persistently high infection rates and the measures adopted, it is clear that 2021 will be just as marked by the Corona crisis. Topics such as adaptation and, above all, resilience play a major role in the face of existential fears. But what other topics will occupy the economy in the coming year besides the pandemic and to what extent has structural change been influenced by the crisis?

Global economy

The global economy in 2021 will be shaped, among other things, by the world's largest free trade agreement, which the economically leading countries of the Asia-Pacific region have signed. The agreement will mark a turning point in the geopolitical world order and the PR China in particular will benefit from it. In 2020, China's economy still grew by 2%, in contrast to other nations, despite the Corona pandemic fallout. In November 2020, China's exports increased by 20% compared to the same month last year. Dependence on China will continue to increase in the coming years. It will become all the more important for Germany and Europe to, on the one hand, revive the partnership with the USA and, on the other hand, further expand their presence in the Asian markets. Furthermore, the economic development of the two economies, the USA and China, is being driven by enormous stimulus packages, so that the export-strong German economy in particular could benefit from this. In addition, the ECB will continue to maintain its package of measures so that the European economy is supported.  Although a Brexit trade agreement has been reached between the United Kingdom and the EU, the country's exit from the EU will continue to occupy the economy in the new year. However, Brexit will hit the UK harder as the EU is the largest trading market for the UK. Due to the provision of vaccines and further fiscal policy measures, it can be assumed that the economy will develop positively in the course of the year, provided that the lockdown is ended  in the course of the first quarter.

National economy

With the ongoing lockdown, a return to pre-crisis levels in 2021 is increasingly unlikely. However, it can be assumed that there will be further massive support measures for the economy from politicians, at least until the upcoming federal election. Various packages of measures as well as a temporary suspension of the obligation to file for insolvency (mainly due to over-indebtedness) have at least postponed the impending wave of insolvencies into the future. Essentially all sectors are affected by the Corona crisis. Examples include the hospitality industry, trade, the hotel industry as well as the mobility and event sector, which were hit hardest by the measures. Various companies will still have to claim short-time allowances on a large scale.

In addition, the "Act on the Stabilisation and Restructuring Framework for Companies" (StaRUG) came into force on 01 January. The law obliges the management of a company to protect the interests of creditors and to implement a system for early crisis detection in its corporate organisation. In future, companies will have to pay more attention to their liquidity planning. In general, the law aims to distinguish more clearly between over-indebtedness and imminent insolvency and to enable early corporate restructuring as a measure to avert insolvency.

Un­ter­neh­mun­gen müs­sen sich zu­künf­tig stär­ker mit ih­rer Li­qui­di­täts­pla­nung aus­ein­an­der­set­zen.

Another factor that will have an impact on German society is the Bundestag elections in autumn 2021. After 16 years and four legislative periods, Angela Merkel's term in office will come to an end. The study "Young Germans 2021" makes it clear that young people currently feel abandoned by politics. With a view to the Bundestag elections, it is evident that politics must win over young voters who grew up with Merkel and address socially relevant issues. The future federal government will determine the political-strategic direction of Germany in the national and global sphere.

Trade

After the end of the lockdown, there will be catch-up effects in trade, at least for some sectors. However, a large part of the trade will face a tense business year due to the long lockdown and the hygiene measures that will certainly continue. A large number of insolvencies are expected. However, the problems, especially in the stationary retail trade, are not exclusively due to the Corona pandemic. They lie much further in the past. The structural problems have caught up with retailers faster than expected and are accelerating the market shakeout in the segment. Sustainable offers, such as second hand and circular fashion and/or articles, are becoming stronger in terms of sales, as people are increasingly more conscious of their consumer behaviour.

Pop-Up-Stores als Konzept

In addition, the issues of connectivity and technology are changing retail in that staffless shopping or in-store digital presentations will become more prevalent. Retailers should also introduce new technologies such as augmented reality. However, this will require technology-savvy employees. There will also be a re-evaluation of the location and even stronger networking between online and stationary business. The question will arise whether an online business with occasionally opened pop-up stores is preferable to a purely stationary business model.

Furthermore, the current crisis is accelerating the transformation of city centres. The dominance of chain stores has already increased in recent years. With the home office, above all the movement profile and buying behaviour in the big cities has changed. People are increasingly staying in their neighbourhoods and using local retailers and gastronomy, which is a great opportunity for smaller owner-operated shops. In addition, hybrid models will prevail. Consumers will want to shop in independent shops. Above all, mixed-use cities and mixed-use neighbourhoods will establish themselves in order to make the transition from a car-oriented city to a compact city that meets the demands of urbanisation. Sustainable neighbourhoods are characterised by a holistic mix of uses, including workplaces, shopping and leisure facilities, social meeting places and residential areas.

In the field of e-commerce, direct-to-consumer (D2C) business will become elementary. More and more manufacturers of consumer goods are relying on direct customer contact to sell their products. Intermediaries are losing relevance. This is caused, among other things, by shopping via social media, so-called social commerce, and messenger shopping, so-called conversational commerce. In addition, food retailers and producers of fast-moving consumer goods, so-called FMCG companies, are adapting their business model to online retailing. Subscription models and click & collect, which were well suited during the Corona crisis, will continue to establish themselves. E-commerce also benefits logistics, which primarily has to optimise the so-called last mile of delivery. It is conceivable that suppliers in less densely populated areas will cooperate, split up spatially and/or that delivery by drone will become established in rural regions in the future.

Real estate

Real estate markets always react to economic changes with a time lag. The recession in the wake of the pandemic will primarily affect rents and property values in the course of 2021. Commercial properties in the retail sector as well as hotels are suffering the most from the crisis, on the one hand because of the lockdown measures and on the other hand because of the changing buying behaviour of consumers. Consequently, there have been and will be further rent losses. There is a threat of vacancies in the medium term, especially in less favoured locations. Consequently, the price declines that already occurred before the pandemic will continue in some regions for commercial properties.In contrast, space turnover for office properties has declined for the time being in the course of 2020. Partly due to low vacancy rates and a low level of new construction activity in the past, the increasing restraint of investors in office space has so far had no impact on the development of rents. In 2021, the demand for office space is likely to be weaker due to the previous development and have a dampening effect on rent development. However, free-standing space will remain manageable given the low starting level, so pronounced rent declines are unlikely.

The market for residential real estate has been very robust so far. Explicitly the rural regions or the surrounding districts of metropolitan regions will benefit from the crisis period in the long term. The phase of lockdowns has further increased the appreciation of one's own residential property. Many households have realised how important sufficient space can be. The surrounding regions are particularly interesting for families, because in the cities there is sometimes an excess of demand, so that there is no slump in the purchase prices for residential property. This is helped by the fact that property loans are currently at hardly more than 1%. This fact has since caused a stable residential construction market.

Der Wohnimmobilienmarkt zeigt sich robust.

Trade fairs / events

The trade fair and event industry is one of the sectors most affected by the Corona crisis. Further support for the industry is planned by the federal government. Concert organisers are to be encouraged to plan events. To this end, the federal government wants to make all expenses billable that cannot be realised against all expectations due to the Corona restrictions. In addition, a support programme for the cultural sector is to be enacted in 2021. In general, the trade fair and event industry will be characterised by after-hours events in the coming year. So far, Germany has been the world market leader in the trade fair industry. But the focus will shift to the Far East after China already organised numerous trade fairs in the pandemic year. In Germany, on the other hand, private trade fair companies are threatened with insolvency. A future trend is that roadshows and online events will be a perspective for companies to acquire new customers independently of large trade fairs.

Hospitality industry (restaurants and hotels)

The slump in sales in the event industry and the lockdown also had consequences for the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry was one of the first to be forced to close in the wake of the pandemic, and was thus only able to generate limited turnover through delivery services and "take-away". It can be assumed that the catering industry will be considered for relaxation measures at a late stage. Due to the contact restrictions still in force as well as hygiene and safety measures, there will certainly be restrictions throughout the year, so that significantly fewer guests can be catered for. The reduced VAT for meals to 7%, which applies until 30 June 2021, will not be able to compensate for this to any extent. According to a DEHOGA survey from December 2020, 70% of hospitality businesses see their existence at risk. State aid is indispensable for these businesses. Nevertheless, the hospitality industry must become more resilient and diversify its offer.

Die Nachfrage nach Bio-Lebensmitteln steigt.

Furthermore, it is evident that eating habits and gastronomic offerings are in a state of upheaval. The trend, which was already visible before the pandemic, is metamorphosing towards organically grown food, regionality and seasonality. Regional offers keep transport distances short and promote the local economy. At the beginning of 2020, the demand for organic food increased. This movement continued throughout the year and will continue in the coming year. The pandemic has strengthened the desire for healthy food and sustainability.

The hospitality industry, primarily in the high-priced sector as well as in metropolitan regions, is also dependent on business travellers. Quite a few companies have realised during the crisis that virtual meetings can be just as effective and will therefore increasingly rely on this type of exchange in the future. The meeting culture will change fundamentally and permanently. Even though the majority of companies will return to face-to-face meetings, a decline in business travel is to be expected. This development will also affect hotels in the cities. The slump in the business travel segment was massive last year. Especially hotels that have leased their buildings are threatened in their existence due to the high fixed costs.

Tourism

Even though there is an emerging trend that more and more people prefer holidays in Germany to holidays abroad, German tourism is in crisis. Tour operators are adjusting their portfolio to the extent that they are offering more domestic destinations and Mediterranean regions. In 2020, every fourth TUI trip was to Hellas. Regions where the pandemic is expected to be mild are preferred. In order to achieve an increase in bookings by package travellers, TUI is now focusing on different rates of holiday packages with flights, accommodation as well as additional services in the form of flexibility. There are also signs of a stronger trend towards holiday flats and houses as well as self-sufficient travel options. Furthermore, short breaks in the city and the great outdoors are among the favourites of German holidaymakers for 2021. These trips are mostly organised privately and without travel agencies. The camping industry in particular proved to be a winner in the crisis. While tour operators and hoteliers fear for their existence, 2020 turned out to be a record year for the camping industry.

Meanwhile, the cruise industry is marked by an uncertain future. The shipping companies and shipyards are an important factor for the economy in northern Germany. Due to the loss of sales, higher prices for cruises are also being calculated. However, cruise holidaymakers will be unsettled in 2021 and remain hesitant about bookings. Not only is recurring information about cancellations and route changes unsettling, but also the uncertainty about what restrictions can be expected during the voyage discourages booking. From the point of view of German holidaymakers, cruise tourism as well as individual and package tours will continue to expand from near-regions such as the North Sea and Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean in the medium term and to increasingly intercontinental destinations in the long term.

Die Kreuzfahrtbranche ist von einer ungewissen Zukunft geprägt.

Another factor is that many holidaymakers consider a vaccine against Covid-19 necessary before booking a trip abroad. Therefore, intercontinental travel will probably not be possible on a larger scale until the end of 2021, when many people have been vaccinated and quarantine obligations have been lifted. However, these trips require a lot of planning due to the flights to and from the country. Therefore, it can be assumed that 2021 will be a transition year for the travel industry. Mass tourism will not take place abroad, but locally in recreational areas. Holidays in Germany will become a fully-fledged substitute for annual holidays lasting several weeks. Tour operators must therefore act flexibly in relation to the current situation. Offers that can be rebooked and cancelled free of charge, last-minute bookings and a comprehensive digitalised security concept will be indispensable.

Mobility

Along with the severely curtailed tourism and the absence of business travel, there were considerable slumps in the aviation sector. These could not even be compensated by the increasing cargo sector, as cargo capacities in passenger aircraft were also eliminated on a large scale.

Die Luftfahrt befindet sich in einer tiefgreifenden Krise.

Aviation is in a profound crisis and, according to IATA, will probably not be able to recover to pre-crisis levels until 2024 – although a much faster recovery is to be expected for short and medium-haul routes than for long-haul. Long-haul routes across the Atlantic and to Asia, which are heavily frequented by business travellers, will not return to their former load factors so quickly, as travel behaviour will change permanently, especially in the business customer segment. Since demand for long-haul routes will only pick up again hesitantly, the carriers from the Middle East in particular will suffer, as they essentially maintain a long-haul fleet and only serve this.

As a result of the slump in passenger numbers, airports are currently suffering massively. Medium-sized and smaller airports in particular are having major problems and are facing insolvency.

The Corona crisis has generally changed the mobility behaviour of society. The fear of contagion and the focus on health are important factors in the mobility sector when choosing a means of transport. In major cities worldwide, the number of people using public transport has dropped by 70-90%. Hygienically safe means of transport such as private vehicles or ride-sharing have gained significantly in popularity. However, due to increased remote working and lack of travel (both business and personal), there has also been a decrease in take-up. Only bike-sharing providers were able to increase their revenues in 2020 compared to the previous year. According to a survey by McKinsey, respondents still want to use their bikes or walk more after the crisis. Demand for public transport will increase again, even if not at pre-crisis levels for the time being. Shared micromobility, e-hailing and car-sharing will also gain popularity again. However, the mobility sector cannot assume that everything will return to pre-crisis levels, but will have to consider what the new normal will be on top of the trends that already exist in the sector anyway.

These already existing trends are known as CASE or also ACES: Autonomous Driving, Connectivity, Electrification and Shared Mobility. Vehicles are exchanging more and more data. At the moment, entertainment and practical offers such as digital radio or navigation systems still predominate. But functions in the area of maintenance and safety are also becoming increasingly relevant. The future of the industry also includes the planned "mobility data room". This data is not only an important prerequisite for autonomous driving, but should also enable modern mobility services that better connect buses, trains and cars. Shared mobility includes car-sharing, ride-sharing, ride-hailing, micromobility and micro-transit. Consumers are looking for a practical approach to mobility in order to get from A to B. In this context, owning a private vehicle is increasingly seen as a burden, as convenience and flexibility play an ever greater role. Direct access to various mobility services with simple payment systems offers a good option here. In addition, consumers do not have to make a high initial capital outlay or deal with insurance, maintenance and repairs. However, this trend applies mainly in urban areas. In rural areas, the private vehicle remains the most popular means of transport, as there are no alternatives for economic reasons. Probably the biggest trend and also the one most promoted by politics is electrification, which is considered the future of mobility. In order to achieve the set climate goals, the emission of greenhouse gases is being pushed to a minimum. The focus is on alternative, emission-neutral or low-emission drives.

Mobilität verändert sich mit großen regionalen Unterschieden.

Automotive industry

The automotive industry is increasingly being forced to change by politicians due to new exhaust emission regulations. From 2021, a new target value for new car fleets of 95g CO2 per kilometre will apply, which effectively corresponds to an average consumption of 4.1 litres of petrol or 3.6 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. In order to achieve the CO2 fleet and sector targets in the long term as well, a significant proportion of the new car fleet will have to be electrified. As a result, there will not only be considerable subsidies (environmental bonuses, innovation bonuses, tax exemptions, etc.) from politicians, but also from the manufacturers themselves for electric or partially electric models. The subsidies and the decided expansion of the charging infrastructure are bearing fruit: car sales fell by around 20% in 2020 compared to the previous year, but car sales for electric and hybrid vehicles boomed.

Die Nachfrage nach Elektrofahrzeugen steigt.

The delivery period for these models is much longer for all manufacturers than for comparable models with combustion engines. A return to pre-crisis levels is not expected until 2025 and even then the demand for combustion engines is likely to be significantly lower due to the increased share of electric vehicles. Car manufacturers will therefore have to shift their capacities from the traditional combustion car market to the e-car market. This is also reinforced by the fact that in the future the sale of new cars with combustion engines will be prohibited in some countries. VW plans to stop developing combustion engines in 2026, and Mercedes and BMW are setting up their business in such a way that they will also focus on electric drive in the second half of the decade.

As the digitisation of vehicles progresses, manufacturers are expanding their value creation opportunities. Some vehicles are delivered with full equipment and the user can add features such as seat heating, cornering lights, autonomous driving, etc. in the subscription system. This will also have a lasting effect on the used car market, as the range on offer will increase significantly.

The structural change is also making itself felt in the supplier industry. For electric drives, completely new and far fewer and less cost-intensive components are needed. In particular, suppliers who specialise in engine blocks or components for combustion engines will have to adapt their business model in time. In earlier years, the decisive component of a vehicle was the hardware. In future, this will become increasingly trivial and value creation will be massively dependent on software. With subscription models for additional equipment or even completely new offers such as video streaming and shopping, when the vehicles drive autonomously, completely new value creation opportunities will open up. Apple has shown how the sale of apps can continue to earn a lot of money with the software even after the actual sale of the hardware. Here, car manufacturers must be careful not to be left behind by tech companies and degraded to mere suppliers. The mobility of the future is characterised by networking, safety and comfort. Hardware will remain important, but software will be the decisive factor in competition.

In addition to the structural change in the automotive industry, car dealerships also have to contend with the increasing digitisation of trade. Online trade and subscription models are also playing an increasingly relevant role in car buying, which is why the stationary car trade will continue to lose importance. Manufacturers are increasingly taking over the new car fleet business themselves and the used car trade is also more and more taking place on online platforms. The pace of change in the car trade varies from region to region. In urban areas, dealers will increasingly form alliances and try to establish themselves under their own brand both online and offline as a manufacturer-independent supplier of various brands.

Der stationäre Autohandel wird weiter an Bedeutung verlieren.

Customers can then compare products and prices in so-called megastores. The appearance as agents of manufacturers, who take over tasks such as test drives or vehicle handovers as part of direct sales, will also be more common in the future. It is important to focus on selective points of interaction with customers to increase customer satisfaction and improve the customer experience. In rural areas, the change will be much slower. This is due to the low mobility density and the lower real estate and rental prices of car dealerships. Here, too, there will be a shift towards multi-brand dealerships, yet the dealer network will thin out due to a lack of attractiveness. As more and more people – especially in urban areas – do without their own car due to a wide range of mobility options, car dealerships should evolve from new and used car sales to mobility sales. Many dealers will take up new business models such as their own car-sharing offers or subscription models. Increasing consolidation is taking place and it is expected that up to 50% of dealers will have disappeared from the market by 2025.

Energy

In order to anchor a new long-term goal of greenhouse gas neutrality in Germany before the year 2050, the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) came into force on 01 January 2021. The share of renewable energies is planned to reach 65% by 2030. From this causality, transmission system operators expect an expansion of renewable energies by 5 GW and thus an increase in electricity products. In addition, European emissions trading will enter its fourth phase. In order to be able to implement the energy turnaround, grid expansion must continue. For years there has been resistance to the construction of the necessary power lines. Another issue that will preoccupy the energy industry in the coming year is the completion of the German-Russian Baltic Sea gas pipeline Nord Stream 2. The US government attempts to prevent the completion of the gas pipeline.

Die Impfstoffforschung steht auch 2021 weiterhin im Mittelpunkt.

Pharmaceuticals and chemistry

The search for suitable vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and their distribution will continue to be the focus in 2021. Since 21 December 2020, the vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer, and since 06 January 2021, the vaccine from Moderna, have been officially licensed in the EU. Some companies have already announced that they will expand their production capacities for a Corona vaccine in order to enable a nationwide supply as quickly as possible. However, not only companies involved in the production of the vaccine will benefit from the pandemic, but all those offering Corona-related products such as rapid tests or disinfectants will continue to see rising sales.

Megatrends digitisation and sustainability

It is clear that digitisation and sustainability continue to be megatrends in all areas. The crisis has only emphasised the processes and importance of these topics even more. On average, digitised companies came through the crisis better and were able to adapt more quickly to the new circumstances. The standstill or severe shutdown of some production and traffic has shown how quickly air quality has recovered due to lower emissions of pollutants.

The issue of sustainability has become increasingly important in recent years under the banner of neo-ecology. Younger society, in particular, is placing more emphasis on sustainable and resource-efficient products for environmental conservation and mitigation of climate change. For example, due to the increasing pollution of the world's oceans and landscapes by non-biodegradable materials, there will be an EU-wide ban on certain single-use plastic products from 3 July 2021. These include cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, beverage cups and food containers made of polystyrene. It also strongly promotes the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and thus the achievement of the global sustainability goals of the Paris Climate Agreement by 2030.

Digitisation has gained further importance in the context of the Corona crisis. The defining theme for 2021, resilience, is found in an accelerated change of many processes. Cloud computing enables location-independent working and is in greater demand than before. The use of artificial intelligence and the advancing automation of manufacturing work, especially in Industry 4.0, are intended to make processes more efficient, less prone to error and more cost-effective. Quite a few professions will no longer be needed in the course of digitisation. According to calculations by the OECD, just under 20% of jobs in Germany were already at risk in 2019 due to increasing automation. 

Die Digitalisierung gewinnt weiter an Bedeutung.

Crisis winners/losers

Digitisation is only one of the reasons why the technology sector emerges as a clear winner of the Corona crisis. Companies will continue to upgrade their IT in the future to enable location-independent working and to be able to react better to such situations. In addition, demand for augmented and virtual reality, e-games, e-sports and e-commerce is booming. This means that technology companies such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft can count themselves among the biggest winners.

The pharmaceutical industry can also be counted among the winners of the crisis. It has already shown a high level of resilience to economic challenges in previous crises, partly due to the fact that it can diversify well across its sub-sectors.

The clear losers, on the other hand, are all the sectors that were affected by the lockdowns and public restrictions. These include bricks-and-mortar retail, tourism, hospitality, trade fairs as well as event organisers. Temporary closures or restricted operations due to prescribed hygiene measures have led to significant losses in turnover.

Long-term challenges

In the long term, Germany will continue to face declining productivity growth. Factors such as increasing digitisation, demographic change and climatic structural changes will prompt new business models and production processes that will lead to profound changes in the economic structure and labour market. The German economy must accept these challenges and turn them into opportunities.

SanInsFoG and StaRUG

The Covid 19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives and is leading to the worst economic crisis in years. In order to counteract this, various support and emergency aid measures have been initiated by the political sector. Nevertheless, according to current surveys, many experts expect the number of corporate restructurings and insolvencies to increase in the near future.

In order to provide further support for companies in the current phase and to avert possible future insolvency, the "Gesetz zur Fortentwicklung des Sanierungs- und Insolvenzrechts" (SanInsFoG) is currently being introduced. The draft law had its first reading in the Bundestag on 18 November 2020 and will be discussed in the Legal Affairs Committee on 25 November 2020. It is planned to be introduced on 1 January 2021, even though in the meantime voices from the world of politics have come to regard 1 April 2021 as a more realistic date for parts of the very extensive law.

Was ist der Kern des SanInsFoG?

What is the core of SanInsFoG?

A key focus is the view on the sustainability of liabilities. Many companies that have, for example, received special loans from the development banks may have to deal with restructuring the liabilities side in the next few years, as the business model after the Covid 19 pandemic, unlike expected, cannot enable full debt service capability.

There are two key elements to this:

  • The obligation to file for insolvency due to over-indebtedness is suspended until the end of December 2020 if it results from the Covid 19 pandemic. With the reinstatement of the obligation to file for insolvency on 1 January 2021 - the obligation to file for insolvency has already been in effect again since 1 October 2020 - there will be an easing of the requirement for a survival prognosis: The liquidity forecast period is to be only twelve months or four months in the event of a decline in sales of > 40% in 2020 due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

  • On the other hand, the personal liability of managing directors or board members before they become insolvent will be significantly tightened. In future, companies will have to be fully financed for the next 24 months in order to protect the interests of the creditor community. If a financing gap is not recognised in time or if restructuring measures do not take effect as hoped afterwards, the managing director will be personally liable. Managing directors must therefore deal with their options for action at an early stage in the event of imminent insolvency.
Wie müssen Geschäftsführung / Vorstand künftig reagieren?

How must management / board of directors react in future?

On the one hand, the organs of the company must ensure the complete financing as soon as the law is in effect. Therefore, the establishment of a meaningful liquidity plan for the current and the two following financial years is already required at the latest now, as the next 24 months must be monitored continuously. If this results in liquidity gaps due to increasing demand or expiring financing, there is an obligation to find a solution in the interests of the creditors - thus at most on an equal footing with the shareholders. Transparency in the form of a three-year plan, the development of financing solutions and communication with the financiers and, if applicable, the other creditors become indispensable and relevant to liability.

On the other hand, the SanInsFoG also includes the new Corporate Stabilisation and Restructuring Act (StaRUG), which implements the preventive restructuring framework required by the EU into national law. This provides companies which basically have a functioning business model with a new instrument for restructuring. Without the stigma of insolvency, (balance sheet) restructuring can be carried out in the context of majority formation. In addition to the termination of contractual relationships and the overruling of individual creditors who are unwilling to restructure, other measures will also be possible in the future, which can currently only be used in the context of insolvency proceedings.

Further information on the contents of the SanInsFoG as well as the planned innovations of the StaRUG can be found here in our special chapter on this topic (only availble in German).

Video tutorial: Strategic to-dos for the automotive industry

Far-reaching and structural changes await the automobile trade and it is now up to the managing director to lead the company safely through the crisis. Jens Sickendieck, restructuring and reorganisation consultant at comes, shows which areas of action and stumbling blocks are involved.

At AUTOHAUS next he will highlight both the most important to-dos in strategic positioning and how to secure financial strength. In the video course you can learn about the importance of an integrated financial plan and what you must not forget.

Further information on the video course

Additional support for our Hamburg team

Neue Mitarbeiter für das Hamburger Team

Steffen Völkel started in October as a senior consultant in the Hamburg office.

Following his MBA and Master of Finance degree in the USA, he worked for almost four years as a controller for a well-known automotive supplier.

Steffen Völkel will focus on restructuring and planning/consolidation.

Helen Ewerding has been supporting the comes team as an analyst at the Hamburg office since September this year.

During her interdisciplinary studies in Fashion and Design Management, Ms Ewerding has already completed an internship with a well-known Hamburg retail chain.

 

Since the beginning of October, Tade Hansen has been part of the Hamburg team as an analyst.

In the summer he successfully completed his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at the WWU Münster. Prior to his studies, he was able to gain some work experience in the automotive industry in the form of a commercial apprenticeship. Tade Hansen also completed an internship abroad in the USA in this field.

comes Team Event 2020

Jour fixe
Barbecue
Escape the City
Barbecue

The day was started by all employees with a major jour fixe at the Gastwerk hotel. With due distance to each other, the colleagues of all branches met again personally after a long time to work together.
 
In the afternoon, everyone got together in small groups to prove themselves at "Escape the City". In the game, various puzzles had to be solved, codes cracked and contact persons found. Hamburg-Bahrenfeld served as an open-air escape room.

Afterwards we ended the day with a big BBQ and great conversations on the presumably last warm summer evening of Hamburg.
 
An all-round successful day!

Successful charity event

Scheckübergabe vor dem Bauwagen

In the course of the charity party of the Tuesbrassers in Oldenburg, which has been a recurring event for a few years now, all proceeds are donated to a specific purpose. This year, 2,500 € were collected from entrance fees and private donations. These were handed over to the association "pro liberis", which supports children and young people, some of whom have been severely traumatised. The money is to be used to repair a construction wagon on an adventure site so that the children and young people have a place of retreat there.

In the picture (from left): Uwe Brake (MK Siemer Tortechnik), Imme Helpertz (pro liberis), Dr. Bernhard Becker (comes Unternehmensberatung), Heike Gunske (pro liberis) and Josef Kempen (The Tuesbrassers). The picture was taken before the Corona crisis.

Understanding the crisis as an opportunity - how the car trade can actively shape structural change

Can the automotive industry be reinterpreted?

Individual mobility means freedom, which every person is entitled to and must be made accessible. It must be the claim of both politics and the mobility industry - car, air and rail transport and all other mobility providers alike - to protect this freedom for those who already have it, to open it up to those who wish or need it, and to secure it for future generations.The automobile trade in Germany has been in crisis for a long time: firstly, a lot of trust was lost among the public and customers due to the Diesel scandal. Germany's former showpiece industry had lost its sympathy bonus practically overnight. After that, ongoing discussions about CO2 limits, possible driving bans in city centres and a widely announced (but so far missing) turn towards electric mobility have led to uncertainty among consumers. Postponed vehicle purchases and the resulting drop in sales figures caused the already narrow margins in the retail sector to crumble further - fuelled not least by the increasing competition from online brokers and independent leasing companies. The business is in a dangerous downward spiral: in order to achieve bonuses or target premiums, ever larger quantities must be marketed. In the process, inventories are constantly being increased and liquidity is being used to the maximum. This increases the susceptibility of companies to crises. As soon as the market weakens only slightly, stocks have to be reduced and vehicles sold - at all costs. On the stock exchange, this phenomenon is called "margin call" - the point in time when everyone has to sell in order to maintain their minimum margin and from then on prices know only one way - downwards.

Verlauf Absatzzahlen

The young groups of buyers are breaking away because the purpose of this type of mobility is no longer understood. Especially in the cities, more and more people are abandoning their own cars and using an individual mix of car sharing, ride-ailing buses and trains, rental bikes or e-scooters. The own car becomes a burden here: the purchase of a new car is hardly worthwhile for private individuals, because the decline in value is enormous. In addition, the costs of keeping the car are also a burden. The cost-benefit ratio is becoming increasingly unbalanced. Anyone who has recently been looking for a parking space in the city centres also understands the annoyance that driving a car in the city regularly causes.

Driving less does not mean that people are less mobile. On the contrary: the number of kilometres travelled per person has risen steadily in recent years. This trend will continue in the coming years. Mobility service providers are successful if they are technologically up-to-date, ecologically sustainable and affordable, in ride sharing, on-demand mobility services or the purchase of a family car. The winners are those who know best how to bundle mobility services in ecologically implemented business processes. The driving force becomes secondary. What counts will be the demonstrably sustainable implementation of the easiest to acquire and most attractively priced offer on the respective market.

Marktindikatoren

For the automobile trade, this means developing from a seller of new and used cars to a distributor of mobility. In 2025, successful suppliers will no longer measure themselves solely by the number of vehicles sold, but also by their profit per passenger kilometre - for most of them a completely new concept. The car of the future is a vehicle on demand that drives independently to where it is needed.

The car trade must reinvent itself

It is necessary to break down the wall between the online and offline business in the automobile trade and to link both distribution channels. The physical touchpoint of the car dealership brings the brand experience to the point. However, new concepts are becoming more relevant for an omnichannel dealership, creativity and variety is required: a pop-up store, a shop-in-shop, an outdoor showroom or a mobility shop, in which different mobility offers are available. The car trade is expected to be imaginative, which is usually lacking. Imaginative dealers such as Autohaus König from Berlin, which has been offering its Fiat 500 models via the electrical retailer Media Markt since 8 June, are a rarity.

This example illustrates two fundamental problems of the car trade: the difficulty of gaining access to customers shaped by the digital shopping culture, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the difficulty of designing the buying process as a stimulating customer journey, which links the online channels (currently still primarily used in the information phase) and the offline channels (such as test drive, sales talk or the service appointment agreement) consistently and optimally. Data glasses, virtual showrooms and / or video consultations do not fill the car dealerships, but generate attention and drive the comfortable customer off the couch. These offers should have long since become part of the standard repertoire of the dealerships. The challenge is to see digitization as a holistic strategy for the entire company and not just as a collection of individual measures. A future business model should therefore answer the question of which sales channels will still exist tomorrow and which new digital channels the company can use to offer its products and services. In practice, however, there are still too few car dealership entrepreneurs asking these questions. The reason is often a generational issue: the active management team often comes from an old industrial world in which the manufacturer sent off the assembly line what the trade should sell. In the new, digital world, however, it is the customer who determines what he buys when / where / from whom.

Already today, various brands are pushing network consolidation and trying to reduce the number of their partner retailers. In urban areas, new formats will gradually replace the classic car dealership. As margins continue to shrink, car dealerships will merge in order to benefit from economies of scale on the one hand and to be able to raise the necessary financial resources for investments in the future on the other. These dealer alliances will increasingly try to build up their own brand, establish it online and offline as platforms and become more independent from the manufacturers as suppliers of different brands. In this way, car dealers are resembling supermarkets, a business dominated by a few giants.

Megastores als Markt der Zukunft?

In so-called megastores, new car customers can compare products and prices across brands. In this way, they find the transparency they are used to from the digital world in one physical location. The difference to the Internet: Megastores and brand boutiques always score points with high-quality advice, which will be highly relevant at least in the medium term for a product that is becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of technology (especially in man-machine communication). So much for the theory.

Entrepreneurs must act now

The Corona crisis reveals another problem of low reserves: car dealerships across Germany had to close their salesrooms for several weeks. According to a survey by the ZDK, about 70% of the businesses had registered for short-time work in the meantime. For sales staff, the proportion was even 90%. The primary goal was: to secure liquidity at all costs. Nevertheless, most companies simply lacked the financial basis to be able to compensate for longer sales shortfalls with their own resources. In the past year, the average return in the industry was just 1.4% – too little in an environment of high investment and capital requirements to build up sufficient equity capital for emergencies. As a result, many companies are not in a position to build up a stable equity ratio of at least 25% and are consequently too heavily dependent on lenders. If even one bank calls in the loans, this means the end for many companies.

Die Unternehmer müssen jetzt handeln

However, the large remainder below the TOP 10 trade groups must ask themselves the question of how to proceed after Corona. The current crisis should be seen as an opportunity to relentlessly analyse one's own situation and to set the necessary course for the future. All important stakeholders should be involved: this includes owners/partners, the management and the most important investors. Only if all those involved pull together can a sustainable solution be achieved.

The options available for action are as varied as the individual company situations; there is no single patent remedy for all of them. Nevertheless, five strategic initiatives can be identified, with the help of which car dealership entrepreneurs should start today so as not to miss the connection to tomorrow:

Create awareness for change: Herbert Diess works according to the motto "Think from the customer's perspective! It is my company! Highest standards for me and my employees! Achieving impact! Concentration on the essential! Achieve more with less means! Rethink and simplify! Backbone, courage and endurance! Being sincere! Think positive!"

The upcoming transformation will lead to profound changes in terms of work forms, organizational structures and business models. The first essential step is to become aware of this and to be open for change. This is especially true for the company management – in the second step, they must then prepare the entire company and all employees for the change and take them on board. Many traditional managers are not familiar with this form of change management – it is too different from what they were used to in the past. At this point, a change manager or coach from outside can help to train and support managers in dealing with the new challenge.

Check strategic positioning: Margins in the automotive trade will continue to be put under pressure. At the same time, high investments in digitization, infrastructure and employees are necessary to keep up with the pace. Every company should question its individual strengths and weaknesses and derive its development opportunities and possible business risks from them. When defining a strategy, it is essential not to think too narrowly, but to be as open as possible to reinterpret one's own role. For example, one could determine that there is a great demand for motorhomes in a market area or that companies are interested in closed Car-Sharing pools and are looking for a service partner with roots in the region. Neither of these issues are part of the original car dealership business, but they can be addressed with the existing expertise.

Guarantee future viability: Change does not happen immediately, but is a long road. However, in order to achieve the goal tomorrow, all performance-related processes must be put to the test and optimized in the here and now (operational excellence). This also includes an assessment of your own organization and management structure: Are the right people on board to initiate and shape the change? If not, shareholders and management must initiate measures to get the right people on board. If necessary, the help of experienced interim managers who are familiar with crisis situations is needed. Within a short period of time, they can convey the necessary urgency of the situation to the crew and ensure that the required measures are implemented.

Secure financing power: In addition to cost discipline and efficiency improvements, adequate capital resources are just as important as a balanced capital structure. Here it is important to analyse in detail how the company's liabilities are structured and whether the maturities and, not least, the conditions of the individual financing arrangements match (matching maturities). This should be organised together with banks and financing partners. For this purpose, however, it is first necessary to define one's own strategic direction in the form of a resilient business plan. The business plan should cover a time horizon of five years and contain various scenarios as well as an integrated planning calculation consisting of balance sheet, profit and loss account and liquidity and cash flow planning.

Actively shape the future: There are numerous reasons why no long-term sustainable concept can be achieved: despite adjustments, the company's own market position no longer appears competitive, no sufficient financing can be secured for the necessary investments in the new business model, or the shareholders no longer want to go down this path. In all these cases, it is important to actively consider various alternatives in order to maintain the value of the company in the best possible way: these can be mergers or acquisitions with competitors, extended cooperations or even the initiation of a structured succession process up to the sale of the company.

Umbruch erfordert Innovationsbereitschaft

Mastering the upheaval in the car trade requires a willingness to innovate, the courage to act entrepreneurially, but also analytical skills and a certain objectivity in the face of facts. It is therefore advisable to work out your strategic re-orientation together with a neutral consultant who is not involved in the operational structures and who can provide an undistorted view of the company with its strengths and weaknesses. This will ensure that a comprehensive analysis is carried out which both meets the individual demands and requirements of the car dealership / car group and takes into account the changing market conditions.