In conversation with René Müller, Chief Operating Officer at smart Europe
René Müller is the recently appointed COO of smart Europe. In his second role as Head of Fleet Sales, which he began in August 2020, he already managed the company's sales activities and got in contact with the B2B clients. We wanted to know how he sees himself in the role of COO and how he can lead the way to more sustainable mobility solutions of tomorrow together with the entire company team.
Five questions to René, who knows the smart brand from different perspectives and therefore is a perfect interlocutor for a little chat about the brand and its future ambitions
1. A COO is often seen as the force behind the scenes. How would you describe your role at smart?
As COO, you are responsible for many pillars of the operative business, like monitoring and controlling day-to-day operations and developing strategies and business plans. Working with smart in various positions from 2020 has definitely helped me a great deal to understand the business. I started as Head of the fleet division at smart Europe GmbH and was soon offered to also lead the network’s division as Head of Network as a colleague’s parental cover. This gave me an opportunity to gather many insights into different fields of our business. Through the years, I gained a comprehensive understanding of the automotive industry. So, the next logical step was to take more responsibility and the new role as COO of smart Europe. Like a Swiss Army knife, my professional experience and knowledge enables me to precisely manage the operations of the company. Bringing the expertise together in the organization, I aim to help them collaborate and enable co-creation. As COO, I strive to contribute towards the success of this company.
2. The automotive industry is in the midst of change. In this context, how does the role of an automotive COO differ from other industries? How does change management affect your work?
Managing change constantly influences my work at smart Europe. When I started at the fleet division, the company had just 20 employees and grew steadily to its current size of 300 employees. So, I grew with the company and supported the changes and consistent growth in several functions, including those with management responsibility. Change has therefore been my constant companion. In doing so, I have always tried to drive our vision forward: We challenge status quo and shape the future of electric mobility. We focus on the essentials to bring premium EV experience to customers. We make urban life more enjoyable and inspire our customers with new impulses. I have always had an intrinsic interest in pushing these topics forward and my academic background as a graduate of the Cologne University in Change Management helps me to add value to this company and my daily tasks.
However, as COO of an automotive company, it is also part of my daily business to become aware of trends as well as fundamental changes in the industry. The automotive industry has been affected by many different dynamics in recent years like the change due to the supply chain issue because of the Covid restrictions. But for smart the most important dynamic surely was the transition to electromobility that we have been actively supporting and driving as a brand. We were the first automotive brand that changed to an EV-only strategy in 2019.
3. smart wants to inspire people to embrace tomorrow with optimism. How do you make sure that this is implemented within the company?
smart switched to 100 percent electric in 2019. This groundbreaking decision impressed me from the beginning. Therefore, as COO at smart Europe, my desire is to contribute to a more sustainable mobility and thus I hope to contribute to a more sustainable way of mobility. This is one of the most urgent issues of our time and we at smart Europe see sustainability as part of the company’s culture. All of us here are committed to being an inspiring trendsetter in premium EV mobility.
4. As COO, you are responsible for the day-to-day operations of smart Europe and therefore for the strategic and operational goals of the company. What do you see as the most important upcoming milestones?
The most important objective is clearly to launch our vehicles in all relevant markets in Europe. However, our goal is also to continue to put the customer at the center. In terms of customer experience, we want to make the access to the cars as convenient as possible. smart has moved into the digital space to offer its customers a seamingless purchasing journey. With the e-commerce platform, we offer easy solutions not only to private customers but also to businesses. Since I have my roots in fleet management, it is a pleasure for me to attract these companies and work with them as a reliable partner. In addition, we want to precisely anticipate the wishes of the drivers and always offer the best driving experience. We therefore constantly improve our product and incorporate customer feedback whenever possible. We then implement this via Over the air updates (OTA), for example. OTA updates are a great way of advancing operations of our vehicles and improving their performance. The updates are transferred to the car via the air, so to speak; it is like updating a computer or a mobile phone. You do not have to go to a mechanic and wait for days or weeks for your car to be updated.
5. What can smart Europe contribute to the mobility of the future and what role do you play in this?
The smart #1 was designed to bring together futuristic design and connectivity features. Since it was always our aim to build cars for people in urban as well as in rural areas, we are proud that the range of our cars enables people to travel comfortably without having to worry about distance anymore. My wish is that I can make a contribution to understanding the electric mobility sector more as a technology that equals the traditional combustion engine sector. Additionally, mobility is always changing, and electric engines are the future in bringing us from one point to another.
Our lines play an important role in terms of "people-centric," or “connectivity”. The smart #1 has been launched in various European countries in 2023 and more is to come. The smart #3 has followed at this year’s IAA. With the all-electric #3, smart is adding another stylish member to its product family. I think with these models we will offer something for everyone, especially regarding technology, range and usability.