Careal Holding AG

If you want to by a new Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Seat or Skoda in Switzerland then you'll going to have to deal with AMAG, Switzerland's largest automobile distribution network. Walter Haefner founded AMAG back in 1945 and has seen it grow to a company with $2 billion in revenues and 3,300 employees.

Ever been to Park Avenue in New York City and passed those car dealerships? Can you imagine the rent they must fork over? Well, that's what I'm thinking here as I stand outside the building housing AMAG's headquarters. It's a prime building in a prime location. Lake Zurich lies directly across the street and Zurich's opera house stands a few blocks away. An AMAG dealership showroom commands most of ground floor of the building with the rest taken up by the Bellerive Hotel, a four star property.

Actually I'm looking for Careal Holding, the parent company of AMAG. I find the name on a side door entrance. Walking up the stairs to the second floor I encounter a woman who just happens to be CEO Werner Boesiger's secretary. I explain what I do and tell her Boesiger is my contact person. She gives me a "what are you talking about?" look. I explain that Mr. Boesiger sent an e-mail saying he received my letter of introduction and to contact him when arriving in town. Acting like this couldn't possibly be true the secretary heads off to find out. In a few minutes I'm sitting in his office.

The pipe-smoking Boesiger turns out to be a fellow biker who has done quite a bit of bike touring. What's the story on this prime piece of property we're sitting in? It was originally built in 1929 as an apartment building. The hotel opened in 1932 and later Founder Walter Haefner bought the whole building including the hotel. Ah, that explains the dealership showroom. What's more, the 90-something year-old Haefner still comes to the office everyday.

Fifteen people work here for the holding company. There's no corporate art collection, no parking for employees, no cafeteria, smoking is allowed in offices and there's a nice employee perk; automobiles at dealer's cost.

Besides procuring gentle breezes, CEO Boesiger's second floor corner office affords him a great view of the lake and the people walking along it. He has a laptop computer, one real plant and, surprisingly not a single toy or scale model car. However, all is not lost as I spot a miniature wood-carved Volkswagen given to him as a gift.