Sustainable mobility, the recipe of Radek Jelinek (Mercedes-Benz)

The challenges of sustainable mobility, from the electric car to the production chain, are at the forefront of the program of a large company like Mercedes. However, to reach Europe’s ambitious environmental goals, it is necessary to increase investment in infrastructure and work together to make electric cars more accessible. These are the arguments that Radek Jelinek, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Italy, dealt with Valerio De Luca, president of Task Force Italy, during the web talk “Relaunching Italy’s potential”.

Among the participants, coordinated by Dina Ravera, vice president of Task Force Italy, Patrizia Giangualano, director of Leonardo, Mondadori Group, Sea Aeroporti and Astm, Paolo Aversa, Professor of Strategy and full time MBA director, Cass Business School, University of London, Gianmarco Montanari, general director of the Italian Institute of Technology, Valentina canalini, director of Terna SpA and Charles Pope, director of the Enel Foundation.


The electrification strategy is complex and, to understand it better, it is necessary to take a step back, recalled Radek Jelinek: “Until yesterday the automotive industry has been committed to making the best cars, the best engines, with lots of horsepower and exciting . Today it faces the biggest transformation in its history: the electrical and digital transition. In a nutshell, what is asked of the car of tomorrow, in addition to full neutrality from the point of view of emissions, is to become more and more similar to a smartphone, able to process data to make the customer journey increasingly effective and satisfying. thanks also to the provision of increasingly complex information and services, which represent an additional and strategic business channel “.

For Mercedes the first electric car dates back to 1912 and the first studies on the development of the hydrogen engine are about thirty years ago. The novelty is that technology is changing today at an unthinkable speed. The European Union has set a very ambitious bar for emission limits, Mercedes already today has five full electric models in its range, twenty hybrid plugs and all the others are rapidly becoming hybrid, contaminated by electrification. A commitment that also involves factories, many of which are already CO2 neutral today, to reach the entire network of plants by 2022.

“The goal for us is to become ‘CO2 neutral’ by 2039, ten years before the great European target. In this sense, electrification is connected to a profound technological transformation and is a challenge that not only concerns the machine but also the supply chain, production. In Italy – said Jelinek – there are 1.2 million people employed in the automotive industry. Suffice it to say that Italian small and medium-sized enterprises supply up to 20% of components for Mercedes and other German manufacturers ”.

The concept of sustainability is therefore much broader and cannot disregard every aspect of the company. The president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Italy has, in fact, underlined that very often when it comes to sustainable mobility, the discourse is limited exclusively to environmental issues, without taking into account the economic and social factors, that is, the ‘sustainability’ of those who produces it, who sells it, and who uses it.

An all-round social responsibility that also translates into the obligation of total transparency towards customers on how cars and batteries are produced or how raw materials are extracted. A real code of ethics that also involves the supply chain, a very important supply chain for the Italian economy and its GDP, as Jelinek himself points out, but which is talked about too little, because it is politically correct to speak of electrification, but the industrial transformation and the effects that this entails are often forgotten.


Digitization represents another strategic driver in the transformation of the automotive industry and of the concept of mobility itself, favoring connectivity processes that affect infinite aspects of the automotive industry: from safety to sales, passing through infotainment, assistance and Ota services. update “over the air”.

For almost two years, Mercedes has had its online showroom that allows you to buy cars by completing almost the entire process online and through digital tools, customers arrive already prepared at the dealership and this is important: ten years ago the customer entered the dealership among the seven and eight times before buying a car, last year the average was 1.4 times. “But we will not become completely virtual, the president recalled, the real experience will be” phigital “and will remain inside the showroom with integrated and smart assistance, similar to that found in Apple stores”.

It is precisely from sustainability and digitization that the programs for the use of European funds for our country start. Jelinek stressed the importance of the state creating a framework that can guarantee prosperity to companies, ensuring them fiscal and legal security. Despite the many opportunities in Italy, the automotive industry, for example, is blocked, there are 15 million very old cars on the roads and one wonders how to remove them from the market also and above all for respect for the environment.


We are moving towards fully electric vehicles globally. However, there are competing technologies and internal combustion cars have very high levels of efficiency, and the room for improvement is still very high, recalled Paolo Aversa. The latter then asked, “one day we will all be electric, but when?”

One of the crucial challenges to be faced is represented by infrastructures, think for example of the columns for recharging electric cars. In Italy we have very few ultrafast columns, almost all located in the north of the country. The problem, the Mercedes CEO recalled, is that the growth of electric cars can only go hand in hand with charging infrastructure. Only with the improvement of the latter will the development of electric mobility grow more rapidly.

But how to work for the construction of these infrastructures? asked Patrizia Giangualano, who recalled how automotive companies spend a lot of time studying future trends. Sustainability can be combined with the possibility of remaining on increasingly advanced markets, trying to understand if the defined solutions are the right ones. Even if you think about the best technology, you need to be sure that it can fit into the context of reference.

In this sense, Giangualano said, the social responsibility of companies that produce significant pieces of this development is also to contribute and help society to build what it needs. The president of Mercedes affirmed the importance of not only looking at what is happening inside the company but at how all the products in the supply chain are produced and the need to develop information and transparency to create trust. It should not be thought that only the electric car can exist to achieve massive electrification of transport.


The car has made history, if we think of the last hundred years and the various historical periods, each is associated with a car, recalled Gianmarco Montanari. The automotive sector is a huge catalyst for innovation. What we ask ourselves today is what is the future of the car due to its importance, both as a stimulus for innovation and from an economic point of view. The automotive is an important and significant economic source, the electric car needs less maintenance and in the face of the transformations brought about by the pandemic we can assume that in the future we will move less. The impression, said Montanari, is that today the trends tell us that there will be a reduction in the use of the car fleet, with the consequent reduction of the entire industrial world behind it.

With services such as car2go and mytaxi (sharenow and freenow after the partnership with the BMW group), our company has changed the relationship of Italians with public utility services such as carpooling and with the public service traditionally offered by taxis, putting them into a system with a global mobility concept. But the future is an iterative process and, Jelinek pointed out, with the pandemic we are returning to a high demand for individual mobility. It is therefore important to understand how it will develop in the near future. The challenge is also in the transformation of public transport and in the possibility of improving relations, interactions and the transfer of know-how between universities and companies.

Everything revolves around the ability to keep up with the epochal changes that we face. The future holds three certainties and a bet, according to Carlo Papa: the first is that our children’s cars will be electric and will have energy recovery, a fundamental tool. The second certainty is that driving an electric car is particularly exciting, just ask Lewis Hamilton to confirm it! And the third is that the recycling and reuse rate of batteries will increase exponentially. The big bet instead concerns chemistry and what will go inside the batteries: the advice is to rely on science.


In order to be fully competitive, car manufacturers in 2021 must confront both the traditional world of automotive companies and the world of tech. All the competitors who come from the technological world have a great advantage over the others, the technological part will be very important to build the machines of tomorrow with the development of an interactive system. The challenges are many, said the Mercedes CEO, but they represent just as many opportunities.

It is not only sustainability that must be addressed at 360 degrees in business processes and by the state, but also a dialogue to create a simplification ecosystem that allows a rapid transformation of companies, through a permanent discussion work table between the government. and the stakeholders involved. From this point of view, Valentina Canalini recalled, Europe is present and is making itself felt much more lately. The theme is the implementation of an implementation which in Italy is always affected by some problems.


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