European Leading Women
Name: Imelda Labbe
Title: Head of global aftersales
Company: Volkswagen Group
Location: Baunatal, Germany
Age: 49
Family: Husband, Gerhard; daughter, Clara, 7
Born: Steinfeld, Germany
Nationality: German
Languages: German, English, Spanish, French, Flemish
Education: Graduated high school in Bad Bergzabern, Germany

Imelda Labbe

What attracted you to the auto industry?

I value the automobile’s significance to society and what it means to each individual’s personal freedom. I also appreciate the emotions that cars inspire in people.

First automotive job?

Manager at the aftersales marketing division of General Motors Europe. I was there from 1989 to 1996.

What was your big break?

Prior to starting my current position on Sept. 1, I was managing director of Skoda Deutschland, where I had the honor of helping Skoda develop into a successful high-volume brand in the German market. My three years at Skoda Deutschland were challenging, exciting and pleasing all at the same time.

What is a major challenge you have faced in your career?

I took over quality management at Opel’s car plant in Antwerp, Belgium. I did so even though I’m not a technician. This was quite challenging.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

It’s always been about team work. Right now the people who have had the biggest influence on my career are the trusted colleagues with whom I’m currently working. The teams I’ve been with in the past have also had a very positive influence on my work.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry?

It should be made easier for young women to re-start a career in management after becoming a mother.

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

I love to spend as much time as possible with my daughter. It’s wonderful to immerse myself in her world.

What keeps you awake at night?

That would be the dramatic changes that the automotive industry is facing. I’m particularly referring to new mobility concepts and the virtually endless opportunities that connected cars will offer.

Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know.

I played the violin in an orchestra for more than 10 years.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I would like to have dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

If I had to do it all over again, I would ...

Not change a single thing.

When and where was your last holiday?

We rented a finca (Spanish for farmhouse) on the island of Mallorca this summer. Many friends came together and everyone brought their children.           

Best advice you’ve ever received?

When you head toward a goal, you sometimes have to make detours.

What advice would you give your child?

Do whatever makes you happy and inspires you.

If you were a car, what car would you be?

A Skoda Fabia R5. This is the car that Skoda races very successfully in national and international rallying.

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