Regine Sixt is considered one of the most famous women in Germany. In preparation for our conversation, I once “googled” for her person and found 77,600 results alone. There are a remarkable 3,470,000 hits for the brand and company Sixt. Dear Ms. Sixt, in order to be interesting for people and successful as a company, it is necessary to represent a strong brand. Would you like to tell us which features characterize you personally? And which ones characterize the Sixt brand?
I think the following characteristics apply both to me as a person and to the Sixt brand, which my husband Erich Sixt and I have decisively shaped: Sixt – the brand and the family – is forward-looking, performance-oriented, radically customer-focused, entrepreneurial in the best sense. In the meantime, with our sons Alexander and Konstantin Sixt, both of whom are successful in management positions, the fourth generation is already putting the pedal to the metal in the company. Although our listed company is over 100 years young and we are present in 105 countries worldwide, we are doing better than ever.
Isn’t it all about being inimitable, uncopyable – unique? How do you achieve that? What is Sixt’s recipe for success?
We have always remained true to ourselves. The will to create is simply in our blood, that is our Sixt DNA. As an entrepreneur, it is always necessary to demonstrate courage and decisiveness. We constantly think about innovations and prove that we are always the first in our industry when it comes to innovations. We were the first on the Internet and on the smartphone, we hate stagnation and love growth and progress!
Your husband describes Sixt AG as his “life’s work”. What specific part do you have in this?
As CEO, of course, he bears overall responsibility. Quite rightly – and we have just celebrated his 70th birthday – he is regarded as one of the very great entrepreneurs of this country. Or how many can you name me who, over decades, have built up a successful, globally active billion-dollar company that is becoming more successful every year? As the person responsible for International Marketing, I have made my contribution to the company’s success from the very beginning. The fact that our brand has such a clear profile can probably also be attributed to my commitment.
Limousine rental has a tradition of over a hundred years at Sixt. From the very beginning, you were the first car rental company in Germany to specialize in day trips and special trips. At that time, customers were the English aristocracy and dollar-strong Americans. Not only that renting a car has become democratized in the meantime: There are completely new approaches to the topic of mobility. It seems that car sharing or the trend of using a car only for a limited period of time – on a subscription basis – are becoming real issues, perhaps even part of modern status thinking. How is the offer being accepted?
It is extremely well received, especially by the younger generation – here in Germany as well as in the USA. Young people today are no longer so much concerned with owning as with using. For them, mobility is no longer a status symbol but simply a necessity. Our Car-Sharing and the flexible rental of the corresponding models are the ideal answer to these needs: It can be the sports car over the weekend for a joyride with the girlfriend and the van for the move the following week.
Since 2010, Sixt has been making electric cars available for rent throughout Germany and therefore won the 2012 ÖkoGlobe sustainability award. Besides all the awards you keep winning with your campaigns, the question arises: Are you keeping up with the times? Or, given your pace of expansion, your innovations, your commitment, are you always one step ahead of the times?
It’s certainly not just about identifying trends, but also about setting trends. We are at the forefront with the topic of electric mobility – we offered electric cars for the first time at the climate summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Today, we have the BMW i3 and Tesla in our range. This allows our customers to get an idea of the topic for themselves before they buy their own electric runabout one day. I think part of being a successful entrepreneur is simply having a feel for trends and making bold decisions accordingly. We are practically always right.
You are considered a connoisseur of the industry: What do you see as the biggest trends in mobility? Do you have trend scouts in the company who research what rental car customers are currently dreaming about?
We are in permanent dialogue with our customers and cooperate with trend scouts who point out exciting innovations to us. One strong trend is certainly the merging of the digital world with mobile offerings. It will probably not be too long before self-driving cars are part of everyday life, for example. It’s all about making the travel experience as smart and frictionless as possible, where flying, rail, hotel, and automobile merge seamlessly and stress-free.
It is noticeable that the BMW brand is exceptionally well represented at Sixt. This ranges from the visionary BMW i3 to the chauffeur service in the luxury limousine. How close is the cooperation with BMW?
Both companies have their roots in Bavaria and are internationally successful. We have the largest BMW fleet in the world. But also the largest Mercedes fleet. In total, there are around 225,000 Sixt vehicles on the road globally. Especially when it comes to innovations like BMW i, we are ideal partners who complement each other perfectly.
At Sixt, they take care of partnerships with major airlines and important hotels such as the Althoff Hotel Collection. Both premium brands, Sixt and Althoff, offer their corporate and private customers attractive offers combined with high-quality services. What connects you with the Althoff Hotel Collection?
Simply the best! One can only wish for such cooperation partners. If only there were more of them! For me – the perfect symbiosis between tradition and innovation. Between origin and future.
Sixt stands for “temporary vehicles”, the hotel industry for “temporary accommodation”. What distinguishes a good hotel for you?
I am constantly on the road myself and therefore appreciate perfect service. It’s not just about temporary accommodation, but an oasis of calm where I can recharge between challenging business appointments. The good hotels that I regularly visit also have this charm of “coming home”, when every wish is literally read from the eyes.
Do you have a favourite among the various hotels of the Althoff Hotel Collection? And if so, what do you appreciate about them?
I particularly appreciate Bensberg Castle. You probably know what my name “Regine” means – so I’m sure you can understand that for me the charm of European castles simply can’t be topped.
Together with Althoff, you also support the Schloss Bensberg Classics, where you can be found in the circle of your family. Many participants there are at the start with a vehicle of their youthful dreams. What was your first own car?
You’ll laugh: I’ve never had my own car when you have the best brands in the world at your disposal. But admittedly: I really love driving classic cars myself at the Mille Miglia, of which we are a long-standing partner.
Being mobile also means travelling a lot. You once mentioned that your ideal trip would take you around the world in 14 days?
Sure – if Jules Verne could do it in 80 days, then today it can be done in 14 days. That happens every now and then when I open new countries and stations for Sixt on the other side of the world or visit projects of our Regine Sixt Children’s Aid Foundation myself to lend a hand.
What about the constantly required adjustment to new impressions and people. Do you find that exhausting?
No, not at all, I always find that inspiring and horizon-expanding. You can only successfully manage a global brand if you yourself understand what makes different cultures and regions of this planet tick. These – literally – different world views are perfect for understanding how you can reach the most diverse people.
In 2000, you founded the Regine Sixt Kinderhilfe e.V. under the motto “Tränchen trocknen”. Was there a special reason for this?
Yes, I think it is quite simply the task of every human being to be part of the solution. A concrete seriously ill girl in the Hadassah Clinic in Jerusalem, which has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was the decisive factor. When I travel around the world, I do not close my eyes to the suffering of the smallest and weakest in our society. “Drying tears” is the order of the day, after all. In more than 40 projects, my co-workers and many of my friends make a valuable contribution in their spare time to alleviate the suffering of the children of this world. As the saying goes: Who – if not us? When – if not now! There is still so much to do. Let’s do it together. Because bringing a smile to the faces of suffering children is the most beautiful thing there is for me.
You are not only particularly important for Sixt Kinderhilfe e.V.. You also represent the external image of the company and the Sixt brand. Do you see yourself as a brand ambassador?
Absolutely. I am proud to be an advocate for the needy children of the world – and an ambassador for the Sixt brand. What could be better?
One last question: Hand on heart – when you’re in the car with your husband. Do you drive or does he drive?
Each to his own. Sometimes him, sometimes me. But believe me: we both have petrol in our blood – just like our two sons. Only my husband Erich pilots his jet exclusively himself. I trust him blindly – there is no better pilot for me!
Source: COLLECTION – The Thomas H. Althoff Magazine #1