In the OEM and Aftermarket market; Schaeffler, the driving force behind global trends such as digitalization, e-mobility, hybrid and electric cars, and sustainability, grows with Turkey at its centre. By restructuring its sales areas in the European Region and including Turkey in the Southeast European Region (SEE), Schaeffler positions Turkey as a central country for the region. Keeping Turkey at the center of future options against the challenges in the global supply chain, Schaeffler aims to expand its structure in Turkey and make it the base of the region.
First of all, can you briefly introduce yourself? We would like to learn briefly about your education and career.
I’m Theodore Lekkas. I am 44 years old, born in Athens and continue to live here. I studied International Economics and Finance at the university and later got my MBA diploma. I have been working in different positions in the independent automotive aftermarket for 18 years, 15 of which past at Schaeffler. I have a happy marriage and have two sons aged 13 and 15.
Can we learn about your work at Schaeffler from the beginning to the present, in chronological order, together with your areas of responsibility?
To put it briefly, I started in 2007 as the Sales Manager of Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Albania and North Macedonia Region in the department known as the LuK-AS Organization at that time, now Schaeffler Automotive Aftermarket. I moved from a sales role to a management role after my responsibilities expanded over time to many different markets, countries and positions. I currently run the Regional Director of Southeast Europe (SEE), a 19-country region stretching from the center of Europe to its borders. In addition, since the opening of Schaeffler Greece in 2015, I have been the General Manager there.
What are your short and long term goals at Schaeffler?
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has been in effect since February 2020, has reshaped the way we focus on our work and private lives. Although its effects have diminished, I can say that our main goal in the short term is the health and safety of our employees, as we are still living in the pandemic period. In parallel with this, I can state that the KPIs of our company, department and region are the top priority for me in the short term, based on my sales history. This goal is also closely related to our being a customer-oriented company, because we cannot fulfill our financial promises without satisfying our customers.
Our long-term goals and vision do not change as VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) times allow. I aim to have safe, satisfied, developed and empowered employees who will take care of our current and future customers. In the end, everything comes back to our human resources. Although it is not possible to know exactly the products and services we will offer in the future, or to predict the configurations of our physical and digital customers, I know a simple and timeless truth. And that is that people make the difference and that people will be at the heart of the business in the future.
Schaeffler has undergone a serious transformation in recent years. Many projects are being carried out in line with the current global market conditions. At this point, can we get some information about Schaeffler’s transformation and how it is preparing for the future?
At Schaeffler, we see ourselves as the driving force behind global trends such as digitalisation, e-mobility, hybrid and electric cars and sustainability, both in the original equipment and aftermarket. In this respect, we focus on our customers’ need for profitable and future-proof repair solutions and digital service offerings.
Although it is not possible to mention all of the numerous projects we have carried out to overcome these mega trends, I can say that we have seen the benefits of the projects we have implemented. Our e-mobility division, which was established a few years ago, takes orders from entirely new customers. On the aftermarket side, we expect our market volumes for Hybrid and BEV technology to grow significantly by 2030. In the context of the future conversion of new vehicles to electric models, we envision a 40:40:20 worldwide scenario for 2030: 40 percent will be powered by all-electric, 40 percent hybrid drivetrains and 20 percent internal combustion engines. Thanks to its expertise in original equipment, Schaeffler is well equipped to develop repair solutions for fully electric vehicles as well.
Even today we offer our distributors thousands of part numbers for hybrid and electric cars. We advise our customers to take a more detailed look at the products we offer. sun has already been formed. For example, one of our distributors in Israel ordered all part numbers for hybrid and electric vehicles in our portfolio at once in 2021. I would also like to point out that Israel has one of the youngest car parks in Europe and has always stood out with its high-tech focus.
Today, on the digital side, I can safely say that there is nothing that we do not touch to take advantage of digital efficiencies and opportunities. One of the examples worth mentioning in this sense is our initiatives within the New Automotive Aftermarket Generation (NAAG) forum… NAAG members are investigating the question of which digital solutions accelerate the development of the Aftermarket. In addition to important factors such as e-commerce, communication with customers, online product information or adapting digital strategies to specific markets, data management stands out as our focus. In all industries, data is recognized as a key driver of future growth; This is especially true for Aftermarket. In this context, a working group is conducting a survey on this issue with 58 AAMPACT member companies to find out to what extent existing data platforms meet the needs and requirements of market participants. As a result, it turns out that existing data platforms are far from meeting all the requirements of the industry. In other words, data platforms need to become more user-friendly and customer-oriented. Here, instead of multiple regional initiatives, an industry-wide global platform is needed.
With the restructuring in Schaeffler, Turkey was included in the SEE region. What are the reasons for this structure? What is aimed with the new structure? What is the information about the importance of Turkey for Schaeffler, current studies and future projects?
We restructured our sales areas in the European Region by reducing them from 8 to 4. Our goal is to be leaner, stronger and more focused. This means the merger of the former Eastern and Southeastern European Region with Turkey. By doing this, we decided to position Turkey as a hub country for the region; this clearly shows the importance of Turkey for SEE and Europe. Not to mention the importance of Turkey for the Schaeffler Automotive Aftermarket Division… The market volume, human skills, customer dynamics and future business opportunities here are obvious to us. For example, we achieved double-digit growth in Turkey in 2020, the year the pandemic started. Only two countries that contributed the most to turnover in Europe in 2020 showed a growth trend. These countries were Turkey and Poland. I believe this fact, with the current war in Europe, fully demonstrates the importance of Turkey to our business.
We currently run the division in Turkey with a focused team of fully motivated employees and will continue to expand our team as needed. Our colleagues in Turkey are already expanding their responsibilities beyond the borders of Turkey in areas such as marketing and pricing. We have a technical center in Istanbul, called the “Schaeffler Technology Center”, where we provide physical and digital technical support to repair shops in Turkey. Our Turkey REPXPERT garage portal and related application is one of the most successful portals worldwide. This is another proof of the latest technology we have reached in service delivery.
In the future, we want to expand the team, to position Turkey as a service provider for the region, and to seize all the business opportunities associated with traditional and even digital distributors. Finally, we will evaluate the necessity and possibility of added value of a logistics center in the Southeast European Region, keeping Turkey at the center of future options in the face of the long-term challenges we face in the supply chain.
Can we get Schaeffler’s assessment of 2022 specifically for the SEE region that Turkey is in?
We did not start the year well due to the low deliveries in January and February, but thanks to the devoted efforts of our friends in the supply chain, we have been catching up since March and April. We are confident that we will close the year very successfully. SEE is a growing region whose engine is Turkey. With the right deliveries, we will be the most growing region in 2022 and remain the most profitable region in Europe for the division. Of course, all that I have stated remains dependent on the unexpected market changes that the war in Ukraine may bring.
Do you plan to launch new collaborations in the field of spare parts in the near future?
A clear phrase will help in this regard: “Together is strength.” This VUCA era we live in today makes collaboration more important than ever, even among competitors. Schaeffler has long been very apt to establish collaborations in the industry. For example, the launch of the TecDoc platform it’s a good example too. We carry out numerous collaborations with our partners in the sector, for example on the projects of international trade groups. The most recent example in the field of Technical Services is the valuable cooperation we have established with Bilstein in the field of REPXPERT Services in some European countries. The results are promising; With this collaboration, we offer workshops more technical know-how and expand their overall skill pool.
How did the pandemic affect your business processes? Can we get information about the current situation with the easing of the process?
Covid-19 has been a great teacher in our business life as well as in our private life. I can say that the biggest lesson I have learned is to focus on priorities. In times of crisis, you cannot reach all your goals. You cannot do everything at the same time. That’s why you should focus on important goals that play a big role in the final result you want.
When it comes to business processes, the biggest impact has of course been on the digital momentum. We were talking about digitization long before the pandemic, but the pandemic has pushed us to do many things differently, more efficiently and to some extent more effectively. For example, we can give digitalized business meetings and postponed business trips. On the other hand, the current situation shows that physical interaction between people is irreplaceable. We are moving into a new state of balance between digital and physical activities. Digital interaction has, in a sense, reached its limits, and we are all returning to face-to-face meetings and travel with our teams and customers. We will not return to the pre-Covid19 situation 100 percent, but we will definitely continue to meet face to face. This is a human need, and face-to-face communication is much more effective in dealing with complex situations. Something you can negotiate over a two-hour dinner with a client can take 10x more effort and time over a digital platform. new situation; It will be a hybrid approach using digital formats for information flow and physical meetings for more intense conversations, negotiations and decisions. We think this approach will be more natural and ultimately more efficient. I can say that this is an improvement as a result of Covid19. At the end of every crisis, there are opportunities to improve people’s lives. We have adapted the way we work together within the company. We can work remotely from home, office or anywhere. This is the future of business life in general. At the same time, our “New Job” approach, which we apply at our new headquarters in Frankfurt, also meets the current needs of our employees.
Finally, if there is anything you want to add…
We’ve had tough times since the pandemic started, and even tougher times await us. In times like these, we need visionary leadership, understanding each other better, and being more open and agile to find the right path. A big part of success depends on communication. Therefore, in the context of our approach to working together and our company DNA, I would like to emphasize once again our visionary slogan that we shared with our South East Europe team. Change is constant and inevitable. We cannot predict the future. What we can do is overcome with attention, confidence, optimism and self-discipline. The slogan “Be the CHANGE you want to SEE” also points to this.