OMV (ÖMV) – where it all began
On June 26, 1990, Walter Schweiger set off for the filling station. But not the filling station he ran in Bad Fischau, a market town in Lower Austria. On this summer day, the filling station operator was making his way to Auhof in the west of Vienna: the place where ÖMV (as it was then) was opening its first filling station. It wasn’t until 1995 that ÖMV became OMV. “The opening was a big deal – a genuine event”, he recalls. “Even the Mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, was there”.
Walter Schweiger may have just been there as a guest that day, but the opening turned out to be a milestone for him as well. After all, that was not only the year the first ÖMV filling station opened, but also the year 345 ARAL and ELAN stations were converted into ÖMV filling stations. Including Walter Schweiger’s ARAL filling station in Bad Fischau. He spent 36 years as a leaseholder, managing a total of seven OMV filling stations in this period. “You never find yourself standing still, something new always turns up”, he says.
I held filling station leases for almost 40 years and operated seven OMV filling stations. I always found it great fun – we were always moving forward, there was always something new.
Walter Schweiger, leaseholder of OMV filling stations in Austria
Things have certainly moved on; today OMV operates around 2,100 filling stations in ten countries. “With our dense network of over 200 filling stations in Austria, our mission to get people moving has been in place for 30 years”, says Wilfried Gepp, head of the OMV filling station business in Austria. “Quite a bit has happened over the past three decades. Road use has fundamentally changed and with it the wants and needs of our customers”. Precisely what Walter Schweiger has been experiencing up close for years.
With our dense network of over 200 filling stations in Austria, we have helped keep people moving for 30 years. Quite a bit has happened in these three decades. Road use has fundamentally changed and so have the wants and needs of our customers.“
Wilfried Gepp, Head of the OMV Filling Station Business in Austria
The filling station evolution
“When I took over at Bad Fischau in 1983, there was a filling station – no more, no less. It was completely different to today. You just filled up quickly, you could smoke everywhere, and the atmosphere wasn’t really conducive to taking a break”. Step by step, the food and drinks offering and the shop expanded to meet the needs of the customer. Today the OMV filling station in Bad Fischau sells 150 sandwiches and up to 200 coffees a day.
The zeitgeist and coffee-to-go
The biggest impact for Walter Schweiger came from the change in 2006 with the major refit of his filling stations and the brand-new concept for shopping and eating. Somewhat more subtle and yet still noticeable to him was the shift in the zeitgeist. “Today everyone is stressed out”, he observes. Even though the atmosphere is far more inviting than it was in the eighties, there is rarely time to have a coffee in peace. “You often used to sit with the regulars, have a bite to eat and chat over a coffee. Today 70 to 80 percent get a coffee-to-go”, says the filling station manager. It hits the spot either way, the Fairtrade OMV VIVA coffee.
Taxi drivers opt for gas
He was particularly enthusiastic about the introduction of cash machines in 2010. “That was the best idea bar none and gave us just the right boost”, he grins. The smoking ban proved more of a challenge. “I was all for it, absolutely, but the changeover wasn’t easy”. He was taken by surprise at the demand for natural gas, which has been available at OMV filling stations since 1997. “Taxi drivers in particular made the switch”, recalls Walter Schweiger. “OMV has always seen itself as a trailblazer in alternative drive forms – the first natural gas filling station and the first hydrogen pump in Austria were both from OMV”, explains Wilfried Gepp. In addition to gasoline and diesel – classic or in MaxxMotion premium quality – today you can fill up with natural gas or hydrogen at an OMV filling station or charge your electric vehicle.
Meeting at the pit stop
There’s not much that Walter Schweiger hasn’t seen in 36 years. After all, the filling station is and will remain a spot visited by all kinds of different people. His visitors’ book contains the autographs of a wide variety of celebrities, from Olympian medal winners to famous faces from stage and screen – legendary actor Dietrich Siegl came to his filling station for the sole purpose of getting a Leberkäse (meatloaf sandwich). Memories from the fall of the Iron Curtain also linger. “There’s nothing that compares; there was such a spirit of optimism. Many people who were then passing through from the former Czech Republic or Poland and made a brief stop later came back – and became regulars”.
After almost four decades of filling station history, Walter Schweiger finally handed over the reins to his longstanding colleague at the end of 2019. But he doesn’t want a complete break: “I am always on hand for advice”, he says, eager to see what tomorrow’s filling station will look like.
You will find the highlights from the first 30 years of OMV filling stations in the following video: