It’s not everyday you have five full minutes to chat all alone with the global CEO of a multinational car distribution company like Astara. But there is something about Astara that makes it feel like a completely normal situation.
Starting by the welcoming attitude of Jorge Navea, with a broad and fair smile, gentle manners and that latin warmth that makes you feel immediately very much at ease. As soon as he starts talking you can also mesure the very high level of enthusiasm about what Astara is doing, adapting quickly to the changes and moving in many different directions. In a way, it is a mindset fully aligned with the company’s motto “For the love of movement”.
Our meeting took place at Astara’s modern headquarters, at Avenida Bruselas, about 15 km from Madrid’s center and followed the presentation of Team Astara’s 2023 Dakar Rally participation. They will take three RWD buggies to the start, using synthetic fuel to face that gruesome long-distance challenge. They hope to become the most sustainable team ever at this event and perhaps collect some silverware on the way. I employed my slightly broken Spanish in our conversation, which was generously received by my host.
AD: What are the goals for the Astara Team and the Dakar Rally?
JN: “With Astara Team’s participation in the Dakar Rally we want to prove that one can be competitive in such a difficult race, with such strong array of contesters, and still be sustainable, with a carbon zero footprint. That is our goal.”
AD: In what way does this motor sport project relates to the goals set for the Astara Group?
JN: “Well, Astara Team’s project is side by side with the global strategy of the company. For us it is clear that the environmental and social challenges we now face, collectively, are a medium and long term commitment. In that sense, we are betting in electric vehicles, but also in other alternative paths that can prove to be environmentally sustainable. And regarding the Dakar Rally, the e-fuel provides the most viable solution, if we want to have a competitive package with a reasonable investment. Perhaps in the future we will have electric or hydrogen options, I don’t know. But, at this moment, this is the most rational and responsible option for the Dakar.”
AD: Regarding the change we are living, particularly in mobility, do you think the relationship between people and cars is also transforming? How is Astara preparing for this?
JN: “We are not preparing, we already are prepared, perhaps not in all the countries we are established [Ed: currently, 17, mostly in Europe, but also Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Philippines] but we will get there. Today, an Astara client can buy a new or a used car, both through our agent’s network or online. But one can also use a vehicle through a subscription service for a minimum period of one month, without limited mileage. We aim for total flexibility to better suit out client’s needs.
We also provide shared mobility services, where you can use an electric motorcycle or an electric car for some minutes or for some hours. We started this particular operation in Spain and will expand it very soon. I think Portugal will be next year, followed by Switzerland, Belgium and other European markets. We are forecasting that, in the near future, about 30% of our revenue will come from these and other new mobility solutions.”
AD: Well, I believe the Microlino will fit right in with this strategy. How do you feel about Astara introducing it in Spain and Germany?
JN: “And Portugal as well, I am sure.”
AD: Well, that was still unconfirmed, but if you say so, I am sure it will happen…
JN: [laughs] “Yes, well, I think so. Microlino is a revolutionary product, especially in terms of design. I think emotion is very important in the world of mobility. We don’t just have a rational side, we need to feel… We need emotion. The Microlino, with its retro styling, is very emotional. And it will be available either to buy or with a subscription service. In Spain we will kickstart this enterprise in a few months. Germany will follow.
There is clearly demand for the Microlino, with many people really keen to take a test drive. I am very lucky, because I already drove it and I had a lot of fun. It has been a long time since I felt this strange combination of a car and a motorcycle. It is really great. I have no doubt that mobility has to be responsible but I also think that it can be fun and exciting.”
Astara is an innovative global company present in 17 countries, three continents and 3,000 employees from 25 different nationalities, that has evolved from car distribution to a broad portfolio of products and services related to mobility. Astara identifies and tracks global trends in a customer-led market to chase new opportunities and build useful future mobility solutions. With over 230,000 vehicle sales per year and hitting a forecasted annual turnover in 2022 of €5.5 billion, the portfolio includes business lines related to car distribution, car subscription to cover individual needs, connectivity and market intelligence.
A motor racing project with the goal of achieving the most sustainable ever participation at the Dakar Rally. The team will enter RWD Buggies that will use 90% of E-Fuel in their engines. The drivers/co-drivers will be Laia Sanz/Maurizio Gerini, Carlos Checa/Marc Solà and Óscar Fuertes/Diego Vallejo, supported by a 30 people strong and inclusive back-up team, passionate about sustainability and motor racing. The 2023 Dakar will take place in Saudi Arabia and starts on December 31.
Micro, maker of Microlino
In 1999, the Swiss entrepreneur Wim Ouboter founded Micro by inventing the first kickscooter ideal for urban mobility and was first to use the term “micro mobility”. Fast forward to 2015, Micro started developing the Microlino, led by Wim Ouboter’s two sons Merlin and Oliver. First thought of as a PR-gag for the Geneva Motor Show, the public interest was so great, that Micro decided to start series development. After many setbacks that included the acquisition of Micro’s former production partner by a third entity, Micro decided to completely redesign the Microlino and take the production under its own responsibility.