[Translate to English:] Joe Willi steht hinter einem Mobility-Auto.

“We need new ways of living – not just new ways of powering cars.”

He is the very personification of car sharing: after 27 years with Mobility and its predecessor companies, Joe Willi is now letting the younger generation take over as he takes a well-earned retirement. Before that happens, we asked him how Mobility grew, how he sees the future of transportation and what he is most looking forward to in the next phase of his life.


  • Mobility

Three decades of Mobility. Didn’t ever feel like to doing anything else?

Actually I didn’t. It’s a great feeling to work in an organisation where the money stays in the company and decisions are largely transparent. Besides, I think it's fantastic to devote yourself to an idea where more is less and less is more.

Can you explain in more detail what you mean by that?

Gladly! The more car sharing there is, the fewer privately owned cars there are and the less traffic congestion there is on the roads. Which in turn means better quality of life for each and every one of us.

A picture from the early days shows you talking on the phone while on a ship. Can you tell us what that was all about?

In 1992 I introduced telephone reservations via a central mobile phone. This was a quantum leap at the time: before, our customers had to go and reserve the cars in advance at the relevant station – on paper lists which we collected and copied out by hand. There weren’t enough staff to answer the calls every day from 8 am to 10 pm, so I often got stuck with this job – sometimes even in my free time or during business meetings. In this particular instance I was attending a business drinks party on a steamer on Lake Lucerne.

[Translate to English:] Joe Willi nimmt auf Schiff Reservation entgegen

Digitalisation was even more of a quantum leap.

That’s right. Fortunately, we got involved early on because that was the only way to make car sharing viable for the masses. As early as 1997, we installed our first on-board computers for touch keys and later RFID cards in the cars. In conjunction with this access medium, we were able to control vehicle access and systematically record journey data; this in turn provided the basis for all further developments such as bookings via the internet and smartphone.

« Maybe one day my dream will come true and one in ten cars will be a red one. »

Where do you think car sharing is heading?

Self-driving vehicles will have a key role to play. But ultimately, city centres need to be given back to pedestrians and cyclists. So we need to rethink car sharing: it should go back to being part of a sustainable lifestyle.

Electric cars are sustainable, too. What do you think about Mobility opting entirely for this route in the future?

I’m very pleased because I believe it’s a good idea. Nonetheless, every vehicle needs roads, space and energy – even if it’s electric or self-driving. So I think that what we need as a society are new ways of living, new spatial structures and stable systems. The 15-minute city, for instance: here you have everything you need within a very short distance.

You’ve always been something of a pioneering thinker, not just in the area of mobility but in other ways, too. We heard you were an early champion of paternity leave?

You might say so (laughs). As a managing director, I went straight ahead and included a clause in my own employment contract giving me two weeks of paternity leave for each child – without even asking permission.

« I can’t wait to find out what it feels like never to have a holiday again. »

A whole new phase of life is about to begin for you now. What do you feel most: joy or respect?

A mixture of the two. I can't wait to find out what it feels like never to have a holiday again. Mind you, corona and working from home has given me a good transition period in which to get used to it.

Do you have any plans?

I have nothing major that I feel I missed out on before. My goal is not to get stressed out by hobbies but to pursue those things that have always given me distraction and relaxation: the medieval market in Lucerne, yoga, roasting coffee, working with clay, travel abroad, cycle tours – there are quite a few options. Always depending on my health, of course.

And that’s exactly what we'd like to wish you: the very best of health, Joe, and thank you for your great commitment to Mobility!

The same to you. Stay tuned: maybe one day my dream will come true and one in ten cars will be a red one.

Joe Willi (65) was one of the very first car sharers. He was the first salaried managing director at Mobility’s predecessor organisation ATG, and then joined the Executive Board of ShareCom before holding various management positions at Mobility in the areas of customer service, back office and operating software. After 27 years of service he is due to retire at the end of March 2021.

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