- Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber, sat down with Christian Stenzel and Sven Stein of BILD in Germany.
- He talked about Uber’s plans for global expansion, changing behavior, and flying taxis.
- On changing behavior: “We have changed our behavior. And we want to let our actions speak for themselves.”
- On flying taxis: “By 2020 we’ll be able to show some interesting display models, and then by 2023, the first flying cars will go up in the sky.”
- On Uber founder Travis Kalanick: “The relationship between a founder and a CEO is complicated … So I told Travis that I needed some space to change things. He respected that.”
It’s Berlin on Tuesday afternoon, and Dara Khosrowshahi strolls through the Brandenburg Gate in amazement despite his jetlag: “What a history!”
The new CEO of Uber (which has a valuation of 72 billion Euros) is the star guest at the tech conference NOAH. Uber can be found all over the world (3 million drivers), but up until now, it barely existed in Germany.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of his interview with Christian Stenzel and Sven Stein of BILD.
BILD: Someone who calls a taxi in Germany on a holiday waits forever or to no avail. No taxi comes. Why is it still so hard for Uber to get a foot in the door in Germany?
Dara Khosrowshahi: Our goal is that someone simply presses a button on their smartphone and in just a few minutes a car drives up. We’ve achieved that in 600 cities around the world. In Germany, we still have some work to do before one can widely use Uber.
BILD: US companies have always had it easy in the beginning in Germany: McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Microsoft. But with Uber, many people are hesitant. Are they wrong?
Khosrowshahi: Uber has certainly done some things wrong in the past in Germany. We have really focused our efforts on the growth of our business, without being a good partner and without really listening to cities. That’s changed now. We’re fostering open dialogue with the stakeholders on the ground about how Uber can shape the future of mobility in your city.
BILD: Persuade the skeptics and the critics, please.
Khosrowshahi: We have changed our behavior. And we want to let our actions speak for themselves. Take the most recent example: Together with the insurance company AXA we created a social security coverage offer for self employed drivers in Germany and all of Europe. The drivers wanted to be independent but still covered by social insurance. So we listened and acted.
BILD: In Germany, one can only use Uber in Munich and Berlin. Is it Uber or Germany’s fault that until now Uber isn’t available in more cities? It’s more present even in France, where taxi drivers are holding protests against Uber.
Khosrowshahi: Of course I would like to take Uber to more German cities. But we will under no circumstances put our business interests above our responsibilities. We are already in talks with some cities.
BILD: Or is it maybe on us, the uninnovative Germans? This year when the German Minister of Digital Infrastructure spoke about flying taxis, she was laughed at.
Khosrowshahi: I’m convinced that flying taxis aren’t too far away anymore. So the Minister knows what she is talking about. Germany is one of the most innovative countries in the world. I have great respect for the world-class car industry, which has shaped the way people move around in their cities for a century.
I am therefore very much looking forward to working with German companies to jointly shape the way people will move in the next century. It is also true, however, that there are regulations in Germany that seem outdated, such as the obligation for drivers to return empty to their place of work after each journey. That doesn’t seem environmentally friendly or efficient to me.
BILD: Speaking of flying taxis …
Khosrowshahi: Yes, I’m very excited about that. By 2020 we’ll be able to show some interesting display models, and then by 2023, the first flying cars will go up in the sky. These developments will save people a ton of time and make them more mobile than ever.
BILD: Self-driving cars fascinate people, but also scare many. When will taxi drivers not be needed anymore?
Khosrowshahi: Even with autonomous driving technology, there will still be a combination of human drivers and autonomous technology for many, many years to come. There will always be situations where only human drivers are needed, for example when it comes to assisting older passengers or passengers with physical disabilities. And as ride sharing continues to increase sharply, we will need even more drivers in the future.
BILD: What are your future plans for Uber, in Germany, but also worldwide?
Khosrowshahi: I want Uber to be a true mobility platform. In the future, there will be much more to us than just cars. I want us to be the Amazon of mobility. In Germany, we want to make it possible to use different means of transport from electric bicycles to public transport with just one Uber app.
BILD: Uber is worth 72 billion euros, but has not yet made a single dollar in profit. How do you explain this to someone who may not even know Uber?
Khosrowshahi: Our ride business continues to grow at a healthy rate. At the same time, we were able to significantly reduce our losses. Our goal is to take Uber from being the largest ride-sharing platform in the world to being the largest mobility platform in the world. That is why we will continue to invest in our company.
BILD: You took over a company that is known throughout the world, but which, like its employees, continues to have strong associations with its founder, Travis Kalanick. How do you deal with that?
Khosrowshahi: The relationship between a founder and a CEO is complicated. I know that because I am the former CEO of Expedia, and I am still on their supervisory board. So I told Travis that I needed some space to change things. He respected that. Nevertheless, I am convinced that there must be much more at stake in a company than the founder or the CEO. That’s why I’m building a strong management team and supporting our employees so that Uber is not just about me as CEO, but about the company as a team.
BILD: German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to tax data in the future. What do you think about that?
Khosrowshahi: The taxation of multinational companies must change and take into account the development of digital activities. However, any new proposal should be in line with the OECD’s global tax framework and the reform discussions there.
BILD: In Germany you are a guest of the NOAH conference. What will be your core message there?
Khosrowshahi: Uber is ready to tackle some of the biggest challenges for German cities: the high traffic and air pollution. Therefore, I will announce at the NOAH conference that we will launch the UberGREEN service in Berlin, which is exclusively based on electric vehicles, and which we have already successfully launched in Munich. We have found that people in Germany do not want to wait until the day when they can buy an electric car — they already want clean mobility! With UberGREEN, they simply download the app and start an emission-free lifestyle just a few minutes later.
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