Lars Himmer, 45
Head of group sales strategy, Volkswagen Group
Family: Wife, Nina; daughters, Anna, 12, Caroline, 7; son, Frederik, 9
Born: Aarhus, Denmark
Languages: Danish, English, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, German; basic French, Croatian/Serbian, Latvian
Education: MBA, IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland; Certificate of Business Administration, Henley Management College, England; bachelor’s degree in international business, Aarhus School of Business, Denmark; 1st Lieutenant, Danish Army, Copenhagen, Denmark
What was your first automotive job and why were you interested in the industry?
As a child I "helped out" at my grandfather's GM dealership back in Denmark, but it took a few twists and turns until I got my first real automotive job. In 2003, a couple of friends from Volvo Trucks persuaded me to join them in their eastern Europe operations, and I started as managing director for their national sales companies in Slovenia and Croatia.
Professionally, it's working in many cultures with very diverse challenges and having been part of great teams. Privately, it's convincing my wife to marry me and to move around with me and having three wonderful children.
Biggest failure and what it taught you?
Early in my commercial truck career I opened two new workshops just 100km apart. Naively, I used very similar approaches for both workshops at the beginning, which yielded very different results. From that experience I learned not to underestimate team dynamics.
What is your current challenge at work?
I'm still adapting to the change to passenger cars from commercial vehicles and to being based at headquarters rather than in a market.
What about the auto industry surprises you?
The high level of passion of owners for their trucks, especially during repose periods. In contrast, the intense passion for car brands has been much less of a surprise.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
My grandfather taught me to show respect for all people, to keep calm and stay positive.
What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the auto industry?
They should definitely go for it. The auto industry covers all areas of business and is constantly changing. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.
If you were CEO of a company what would you do first?
Meet as many customers as possible.
What job do you really want to have in the future?
I am still very new in my current role, therefore, I want to focus on delivering results before I start considering my next steps in the group.
What do you do to relax?
I relax best when I am with my family; it doesn't matter whether we're at home or exploring.
Opel Senator 3.0, which I inherited from grandfather, but as I was still a student I didn't keep it long.
VW Touareg, which is soon to be replaced by a new Golf R.
June 2013-present: Head of group sales strategy, VW Group, Wolfsburg, Germany
2012-2013: Group SVP/CEO sales region eastern Europe, MAN Truck & Bus, Munich, Germany
2010-2012: Group SVP/CEO sales region CIS/managing director, MAN Truck & Bus, Moscow, Russia
2007-2010: Deputy managing director, Region Russia, Volvo Trucks, Moscow, Russia
2006-2007: Managing director for Latvia, Volvo Trucks, Riga, Latvia
2003-2007: Managing director for Slovenia/Croatia, Volvo Trucks, Zagreb, Croatia
2001-2003: HR director for Russia/CIS/Baltic, Dandy Distribution, Moscow, Russia
2000-2001: Site general manager, Dandy RBD, Novosibirsk, Russia
1998-2000: Executive assistant to CEO/president, Dandy, Vejle, Denmark
1995-1998: Commercial attache, Royal Danish Embassy, Moscow, Russia
1994-1995: Security and consular officer, Royal Danish Embassy, Moscow, Russia
1992-1994: Officer cadet, Royal Danish Army, Copenhagen, Denmark