"We have a lot of projects and ideas": How to continue after the Microlino
It took seven years from the idea to the start of series production.
On the occasion of the market launch of the retro-stromer Microlino, the company's founders, brothers Merlin and Oliver Ouboter, looked back on this time and told Swiss Automobile Review about the highs and lows of the past years and gave a little preview of what customers can expect shortly.
"Our production line is finally ready to make the first real production vehicles," Merlin Ouboter says of the current state of affairs. First to be produced are the 999 limited Poinieer Edition vehicles, which have their chassis number prominently visible in the vehicle. These are to be delivered to the first customers soon, with buyers from Switzerland being served first, after all, Micro Mobility is also a Swiss company.
At the beginning of the project, however, the production figures are not yet too high: "At the moment we are only building about two vehicles per day, which makes ten units per week," says Oliver Ouboter. But this number should double soon. Unfortunately, he cannot give any further details at the moment, as the supply chains are very fragile due to the semiconductor crisis and the war in Ukraine. "It is not a good time to talk about increasing the production rate," says Oliver Ouboter.
The recent sharp rise in market prices is also causing problems for the young company: "Since Corona, the costs of raw materials and energy have exploded," says Merlin Ouboter. "For example, the price of steel and aluminium has doubled compared to the previous price. It is even worse with the price of copper, which has tripled. The prices of nickel and lithium, which are in the batteries, have also gone up sharply."
"At the beginning of the project, we knew nothing"
Asked about the beginnings of the project in 2015, Oliver Ouboter says: "At the beginning, we knew nothing, although of course we completely ignored it at the time." It was only over time that the two brothers became aware of the magnitude of the task: "For me, the biggest challenge as a newcomer was not so much developing the car, but rather dealing with the various suppliers," Ouboter continues. For the suppliers, her company was a small player that hardly played a role: "Quite the opposite of the big manufacturers. So we were never their priority. That caused us some problems because as a manufacturer we need suppliers to build a car."
"Building a car is like a race over the mountains, where every pass is a new problem to overcome," says Merlin Ouboter about the past years. "The secret is to go step by step and never give up." Only a few people were involved in the development, the Ouboters say six in Switzerland and about ten in Italy, plus external business partners when needed.
"Today we are very satisfied with the result," says Merlin Ouboter. The all-electric Microlino, which is only 2.5 metres long, is a "credible alternative for numerous uses". Although it is comparatively expensive in its segment of light electric vehicles, it is "rather premium", more robust and is designed "to withstand the ravages of time". The two founders, therefore, assume that the Microlino, "thanks in part to its well-made chassis", should be a very stable vehicle in terms of value and could therefore have a lower total cost of ownership than competing models such as the Renault Twizy, the Opel Rocks-e or the Citroën Ami, which are several thousand euros cheaper to buy.
For the future, the two have "very many projects and ideas", says Merlin Ouboter, which "of course" still have to be kept secret. "But what we can say is that we will not become Smart and build an SUV," he adds. "We want to stay in the vehicle category under 500 kilograms. That is the definition of micro-mobility. There are other types of vehicles that are worth looking at more closely." So we can be curious to see what else the two will come up with.