European Leading Women
Name: Annette Winkler
Title: Head of Smart
Company: Daimler
Location: Stuttgart, Germany
Age: 56
Family: Husband
Born: Wiesbaden, Germany
Nationality: German
Languages: German, English, French, Dutch
Education: Doctorate in economics from Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University, Frankfurt, Germany

Annette Winkler

What attracted you to the auto industry?

What attracts me most are the people. They are passionate and value driven. But what’s also very attractive are two very unique brands that make up Daimler: Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

First automotive job:

I was head of communications, press and public relations for Mercedes-Benz in 1995.

What was your big break?

My initial break came when I changed jobs from a medium-sized, family-run business to a big corporation, Daimler. Then I took over leadership of Smart in 2010. At Smart I was able to transform what started as a big idea to an exceptional concept for urban mobility.

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

The way to motivate women is to passionately seek out their involvement and dedication to help further develop individual mobility solutions. Mobility is such an important pillar for the well-being of people. The key is working together and incorporating the talents of all kinds of different personalities, nationalities and genders. 

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

I really enjoy spending time with my husband having extensive conversations with him. I also like to hike, which lets me take in the landscape and enjoy nature. I love looking across Lake Constance as well as cooking. It’s really all about living consciously and trying to deeply enjoy all the small moments.

What keeps you awake at night?


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

I love doing housework.

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

Work on myself even more to better empower my employees. I do this already but I strive daily to find ways to do an even better job in this area.

Name one talent you wish you had.

I would love to have some musical talent. In fact, I would like to have the kind of talent that would allow me to conduct an orchestra or sing at a world-class level.

Best advice you’ve ever received?

Initially the economy is run by people for people and not for money.

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

The kind of car that my husband loves most.

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