The automotive business blog from Chris Wright
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The Detroit blog
15 Jan 2013 12:07
Tuesday 15 January
08.45 (CET) - RS Somehow we contrived to get only four hours' sleep last night. Our wind-down session at C J Mahoney's turned into a debate about the motor industry, and the future of motoring journalism, and suddenly it was 1.30am. By the time faces had been washed and teeth brushed it was almost two. Four hours later the nagging presence of the alarm told us it was time to rise and shine. My first port of call is the Ford press conference at the Joe Louis Arena. It feels strange to be going to Ford on day two. The company usually bags pole position at the start of the first day. Given its Machiavellian skills at news management, I can't imagine Ford has ended up featuring on day two by accident. Ford is the only company to insist on searching your laptop bag before allowing you in. Some might call it paranoia. The whole event is far too slick and insincere. Executive chairman Bill Ford, CEO Alan Mulally and chief operating officer Mark Fields come across as bunko booth salesmen in the old Wild West. I leave feeling as if I've just been sold a bottle of snake oil at a fraction of the normal price. Like five thirds.
08.45 (CET) - RS
Somehow we contrived to get only four hours' sleep last night. Our wind-down session at C J Mahoney's turned into a debate about the motor industry, and the future of motoring journalism, and suddenly it was 1.30am. By the time faces had been washed and teeth brushed it was almost two. Four hours later the nagging presence of the alarm told us it was time to rise and shine.
My first port of call is the Ford press conference at the Joe Louis Arena. It feels strange to be going to Ford on day two. The company usually bags pole position at the start of the first day. Given its Machiavellian skills at news management, I can't imagine Ford has ended up featuring on day two by accident. Ford is the only company to insist on searching your laptop bag before allowing you in. Some might call it paranoia.
The whole event is far too slick and insincere. Executive chairman Bill Ford, CEO Alan Mulally and chief operating officer Mark Fields come across as bunko booth salesmen in the old Wild West. I leave feeling as if I've just been sold a bottle of snake oil at a fraction of the normal price. Like five thirds.
06.00 (EST) - CJ
Apologies for my lack of bloggage but yesterday turned out to be rather busy. Having left the hotel at 7am, I actually didn't see my room again for 18 hours.
Very entertaining dinner last night with BMW where I enjoyed the company of not one but two board members - sales and marketing boss Ian Robertson and MINI and Rolls Royce head honcho Harald Kruger. None of the other journos seemed interested in talking to them - perhaps they were cream crackered after a long day at the show.
Talking of which, eventually caught up with the rest of the team fairly late on to discuss tactics. It's another busy day ahead, kicking off with Carlos Ghosn then Sergio Marchionne. A nice way to ease yourself into the day...
Monday 14 January
19.15 (EST) - RS
We've just filled up the car. Seventeen (US) gallons for US$60, or slightly less than GBP40. Makes you want to weep thinking about the fuel prices back home.
18.45 (EST) - RS
Eleven hours after arriving at Cobo three of us are back in the car returning to our billet. Wright has gone to dinner with BMW. None of us has eaten more than a packet of pretzels all day - and drunk several gallons of coffee.
You do see some sights at American shows. One journalist even had a 'Press' ticket stuck in the rim of his hat, like an extra from an old black and white B-movie.
The manufacturers go to great lengths to attract attention, too. Mercedes had Bruce Hornsby performing 'The Way It Is' at its unveiling. Audi had conjured up a magician. And some very well-endowed female dancers.
We're now debating where to eat tonight. No-one feels energetic enough to move far from where we are staying, just off Big Beaver Road. I am reliably informed by Mr O'Kelly that it is also known as 16-mile Road, because that's how far it is from Downtown Detroit, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway.
We're sticking with Big Beaver Highway because it suits our schoolboy sense of humour and that's what the street signs say. And it did used to be the home of the American edition of Penthouse magazine.
09.30 (EST) - CJ
Little wrapped mints and hand sanitiser dispenses by young ladies at the entry to the show. No explosives sniffer dogs this year though. Now my hands have been sanitised they are too slippery to remove the mint wrapper...
09.00 (EST) - CJ
They have been doing some work at the Cobo exhibition hall with a bright new atrium and a new position for the media centre, much closer to the show floor. No more having to take several electric shock-giving escalators to the top of the building. Show mood is pretty buoyant and it would appear that all the manufacturers who have been missing in recent years have returned. Just bumped into British designer Peter Horbury who is now working with the Chinese at Geely. Have arranged to sit down with him later so more to follow on that. Just been speaking to the people at Chevrolet and taking a look at the new Corvette Stingray. Looks like they are going to make this in right hand drive form in around 2015.
The fan's broken .......
Getting suited and booted ready for day 1 at the show. Our room has a ceiling fan which makes a very annoying ticking noise which I can hear from my open plan upstairs room. There appears to be no way of turning it off and we have hit pretty well every switch in the place. Mind you I have worked out that if I step across from my room onto the fan and slide down it onto the sofa below it's quicker than using the stairs.
Sunday 13 January
Busy night last night as we raided the JLR, Mercedes and VW events. Then a cab ride back out to Troy and a quick couple of pints in CJ Mahoney's. CJ Mahoney? What kind of idiot is called CJ? Anyway, Roger and I realised our schoolboy error, we still needed to write stuff so we were up until midnight on the laptops. Suddenly tomorrow doesn't seem that far away.
The Fellowship of the Ring is formed. The team has come together from all corners of the globe, well me, Roger, AOK and Ant. We are now esconced in our hotel - two to a room (there are separate bedrooms thankfully). There's even a little kitchen. Just like being at uni. Be prepared for some men behaving badly anecdotes.
Actually, AOK and Ant are not really being men, they've gone shopping leaving Roger and I working. This evening I am going along to see JLR then Merc while Roger is off to VW. Tony Lewis in the meantime his packing is bag ready to head over the Atlantic ...... to St Lucia.
Saturday 12 January
10.30 (GMT) - CJ
The Detroit roadshow gets ...... er, on the road. Now checked in at Heathrow ready for the annual visit to the frozen wastes. We are a bit spread out, I'm heading in via Chicago on BA, Roger Stansfield is already out there having spent the past few days at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (he tells me he hates the place ..... really?) AOK and snapper Anthony Holdgate going direct in today on Delta.
However, there is method in my madness by taking a roundabout route - we are buying our own tickets so it's back of the bus for us but thanks to the BA exec card I have been upgraded to Club - result.
Enjoy your trip, chaps.
Honda Thailand's scrappage scheme
17 Jul 2012 09:00
I have been doing the rounds of the car companies in Thailand where in production terms last year’s flooding seems to be water under the bridge with production now pretty well back to normal.
One thing I discovered is that while journalists get invited to attend many new car launches, they don’t normally get invited to a new car scrapping.
That’s precisely what Honda did when it had to after 1,000 of its cars disappeared under the floodwater at its Thai factory last year. To assure the media that the cars would never make it on to the road, the press was invited to witness the cars being cut and thrown into a portable scrapper shipped in to the plant.
Interestingly the move achieved more front pages and TV coverage than any launch event.
Thai trip offers no rain relief
13 Jul 2012 12:07
Honda's underwater plant pictured last October
I had hoped that by coming to Thailand I would escape probably the worst English summer I can recall in terms of rainfall. No such luck.
The British Airways flight was held on the ground at London for two hours because of the chaos caused by thunder storms and we had to dodge and weave through several others on the way.
On the train from the airport into Bangkok I could see that roads and fields were flooded, heavy rainfall had hit during the morning. According to a colleague, some side roads in the city were under four or five inches of water.
Obviously not as bad as the floods which devastated the country last October, which is why I am here, to discover how the automotive industries have recovered and how they can prevent the same thing happening again.
One thing I have discovered in this morning’s Nation newspaper is that you should always carry a banana in the car. Motoring writer Pattanadesh Asasappakij offered helpful advice to his readers whose radiators spring a leak.
“Try to find raw bananas, peel them and slice them up. Then push the banana pieces repeatedly into the spot of the leak. The banana will clog the hole and prevent water from leaking.”
Not a lot of people know that …….
36 hours in Shenyang
25 May 2012 09:38
That’s what you call a flying visit, having left Munich at 10pm on Tuesday night, I am now back sitting in the departure lounge here at 7am Friday morning awaiting my connection back to London.
We were on the ground in China for just 36 hours and it was interesting to see a city other than Beijing and Shanghai where I have been on many occasions. Shenyang is a lot less bureacratic than the Chinese capital and not as cosmopolitan as Shanghai – not that I really got to see a lot of it.
I was the only UK representative among a group of Germans, Austrians, Italians, French, Greek, Czech and Romanians on the visit although at the opening of the new BMW factory we were joined by several hundred Chinese journalists.
First event was the welcome dinner, hosted by BMW Group’s China president Ivan Koh, He was great company at the table and over and above the auto industry he fed us one or two extraordinary facts.
China is currently the second largest consumer of luxury goods in the world behind Japan, and he confidently predicts it will take over as number one by the end of this year.
Already the world’s most populous country at 1.3bn, Koh told me that by 2025 the population will grow by a staggering 350m. Think about that number – it’s bigger than the entire population of the USA.
Fascinating fact number three is that there are nine cities with a population of 10m or more, 87 with 5-10m inhabitants and 176 with between 1m and 5m. Of these, Shanghai is the biggest at 23m.
Sleep never comes easily on the first night – and in this case the only night – in the hotel and I was wide awake at 5am. A bit of work in the room, a walk around the grounds of the vast Maritim Hotel, breakfast and a meeting with BMW’s finance chief Friedrich Echiner.
He gave us the low-down on the new factory, told us about the enduring joint venture with Brilliance and adroitly swerved round some of the more awkward questions thrown at him.
Then the inevitable bus ride out to the new Tiexi factory for the official opening in the presence of regional and city officials along with BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer.
Traditional Chinese drums, official speeches and the obligatory dragon dance was followed by a quick buffet lunch – oh and Chinese journalists don’t get the concept of joining a line, so you really had to fight for your food.
The factory tour backed up Eichiner’s claim that Tiexi is up there with best of the BMW Group plants, and more advanced in many ways although it is still in the ramp up stage for X1 and the new long wheelbase 3-series does not come on line until later.
Back on the bus and an hour to pack and get down to the farewell BBQ. Departure from the hotel was at 11.15pm to get us to the airport for a 1.15am departure – and some sleep.
Hardly an A-list China city
23 May 2012 09:25
With a population of around 8m, Shenyang barely makes it into the second tier of China’s gigantic cities. It’s certainly not up there with Shanghai (23m), Beijing (20m) or Guangzhou (16m) but, judging by the amount of construction going on here, Shenyang is heading for the first tier. The city is the capital of Liaoning Province in the northeast of China, an area of about 145,900 sq km and a total population of 43m.
Liaoning is one of the country’s most important industrial bases covering a wide range of industries such as machinery and equipment, metal, electronics and petrochemicals. The region is also one of the most important raw materials production bases have a quarter of China’s iron reserves and deposits of crude oil.
It is also BMW’s Chinese production base which is why I am here. The joint venture between the German carmaker and its Chinese partner Brilliance started producing 3-series models at Dadong in 2003, tomorrow the JV will open its second plant close by at Tiexi producing the X1 and long-wheelbase 3-series. More on that later.
I have to say we travelled in style, flying from Munich on a 40-seat, long-range Boeing 737. On landing we were whisked to the swanky Maritim hotel – as yet the traffic is nowhere near as bad as Beijing or Shanghai.
The Beijing blog
25 Apr 2012 11:30
Our adventurer saw the Great Wall Wingle; his photographer saw the wall itself...
Wednesday 25 April
That's me sorted. Done all I need to do at the conference and heading back to the hotel to put my feet up. Ant should be in the air now, winging his way homewards. I have it all to do tomorrow. After yesterday's appalling weather it really is quite nice outside and you can actually see blue sky above. Maybe a walk then.
Here I am back at the Automotive News China conference, feeling a lot better than I ought to after a few beers out with Ant last night. He arranged for us to meet at his favourite Italian restaurant - well, he's been there once before - and I set out into the night. First stop was the concierge to translate the address into Mandarin. I've done this before you know.
That done, a mile long queue for a cab and when it did arrive the driver hadn't got a clue re the address. The doorman had a go before disappearing back into the hotel to get a map. I meanwhile am wondering how far away it is and how much it's going to cost. Finally on the way and the driver stops twice to look at the map then gets a call on his mobile, the ring tone appeared to be a small child hurling abuse at him. Bizarrely the restaurant is all of four minutes drive from the hotel! I could probably have walked it.
After food we hit a couple of bars, the second of which was a country and western pub called Nashville - and why not when you're in Beijing? Performing on stage were two middle aged guitar playing Chinese women which didn't bode well but they had just the most brilliant country voices. Tried some local beers and one brew in particular was quite challenging, then it was time to have fun with another taxi driver. You would have thought he would know the Westin Hotel? He did, actually, but not before I finally got the message across by saying it in the worst Chinese accent that you'll ever hear.
Tuesday 24 April
At the reception following the Automotive News China conference I bumped into former General Motors Europe chief Nick Reilly. Nick, who was also MD at Vauxhall for a while, retired a couple of months ago but he is obviously not spending his time tending the garden. He has got a couple of gigs with companies looking to expand their presence in China and Asia. Nor is he being the typical retired Brit and decamping to Spain or the South of France - he's going to live in Kuala Lumpur.
I'm glad I've been inside all day, it's absolutely tipping down outside. I can't image what it must be like for those who had stands outside at the show - I wonder if some people had to make the long walk again? Apparently that happened a couple of years ago.
My hosts at JLR have kindly put a Range Rover and driver at my disposal so I'm lording it around town. Automotive News conference is interesting, I'm learning how to sell cars in China, you never know it might come in handy one day. Ant has been sweeping up on the pix then looking to see if there's anything we can do tonight. I have been to Beijing many times but still haven't worked out my way around. Ant has already braved the metro after taking a roundabout route into town via a taxi from his hotel to the airport, then the train into the centre before disappearing underground.
Pretty swanky place called Capital M last night but a very relaxed atmosphere after a hard day at the show. Have taken an executive decision not to go back into the show today having done all I could yesterday. I just couldn't stand the hour long drive back out there. Most of the other journos on the JLR trip have caught the bomber home today. At lunchtime I am off to the Automotive News China conference across town which will be running today and tomorrow. It should provide a good insight into the market here.
Monday 23 April
Well, that's the last interview of the day, with Tony Williams who heads up the design for MG and Roewe here in China. He's now based in Shanghai rather than Birmingham and says it's a bit different but good fun.
Have been charging around a bit too much to see if I can spot any odd vehicles, actually charging is not the right word - trying to dodge through the seething mass of humanity more like. I did see something that looks incredibly like a Mini while my favourite name was the Great Wall Wingle [domestic version of the Steed pickup truck just launched here in UK - ed]. What on earth was GM thinking by putting a lurid green Chevrolet Camaro on the front of their stand?
I never did see Ant again but I see from the site he has been working away, bless him. I think he half knackered himself yesterday climbing the Great Wall, the real one, not the cars. He had to order in a takeaway Italian last night - now there's a different spin on things.
One thing I do know is that I am in desperate need of a shower and other amenities: How can you let about a million people into a show and only have two urinals in each of the toilets? Oh, and don't put carpets on the toilet floor.
There's an informal trough with JLR this evening - a beer might be in order as well.
A bit like the Delhi show earlier this year, I feel some way out of my comfort zone trying to find out what is going on. Try as we might, no one has actually been able to unearth a press conference list, there's not even anything on the organiser's website. Finally found one, of sorts, given to me by Ford PR man Craig Von Essen and guess what? Most of the conferences are at the same time in different halls! Never mind, there's not a lot of point in going to them as my mandarin is non-existent. As I feared, the place is rammed with people and getting around is not easy. It has also become fiercely hot.
Some, it seems, we're not as lucky as us. Just bumped in to [Volkswagen UK's] Paul Buckett who took three hours to get in from the centre of the city. His crew were not allowed along the closed roads and had to hoof the last 40 minutes - good job it wasn't raining. Met up with camera man Anthony Holdgate and have left him snapping away following our lavish brunch in the on-site MacDonalds.
I am totally confused. The place we went to yesterday to collect our credentials (I got the passport back, by the way) was not actually the show halls, despite having 'Auto China' emblazoned all over it. This was a shame as it was only about 10 minutes from the hotel. The actual show is out near the airport, about an hour on a coach away. But how cool is this, we had a police escort complete with blues and twos. Despite the roads around the show being closed, we got the full VIP treatment right up to the doors.
Sunday 22 April
It's midnight and the plan for the early night has gone out the window. I blame those JLR girls. Just come back from the press conference with Victoria Beckham. Huge crowd outside - for her not me. Plan is to head for the show at 7am. I sooooo looking forward to that.
Just spent the morning in JLR's largest dealership in the world in Beijing. It's massive and the showroom alone can hold 20 cars. The customers get pretty well looked after as well. There’s a restaurant, lounge area with wi-fi, a table tennis table (of course) and even a massage room – you won’t get one of those in Honest Joe’s used car lot. It is apparently a nice day, hot and the sun is shining – although you still can’t actually see it, or, indeed, any blue sky, just the smog and an endless cascade of blossom coming from the trees. As I was in China I thought it would be good to have a curry at lunchtime. Actually, the hotel restaurant has a full English roast on offer complete with Yorkshire pudding but I resisted the urge. In fact today was “bubble-iscous” day in the restaurant, hence the bizarre appearance of a girl in a bubble in the hotel foyer – a somewhat surreal site. Even so I still didn’t quite get the “bubble” bit apart from another girl walking around the restaurant in a see-thru ra-ra skirt – she did have a leotard on as well. It was covered in teaspoons.
I really should stop smoking that stuff...
Next it was back in the fleet of Jaguars and Land Rovers to go to the show to collect credentials. Unfortunately there was a queue that appeared to be several miles long which didn’t bode well given how hot it was outside. Fortunately a very nice man from JLR China collected up all our passports and said he would sort it all out for us and sent us back to the hotel... at least I think he was from JLR.
Saturday 21 April
Saturday afternoon and we were stuck in a huge traffic jam! It took considerably longer than expected to get back to the hotel from the press conference but at least there was an hour or so to relax before dinner with the JLR top bods via another traffic jam. Have to say most of us were flagging come pudding. Haven't seen Ant yet, although we have exchanged emails - he tells me he's nice and close to the runway at Beijing airport, in fact he has to keep his windows open so the aircraft can pass through on landing and take-off. He's been doing the sight-seeing thing and is off to the Great Wall in the morning... don't they make cars?
17.00 (Chinese Standard Time) Beijing
That went well, nice list of films to watch on the flight and, er, I fell asleep and didn't wake up until landing time! Still, the time passed quickly. Beijing, as ever, covered in smog so I have no idea what the weather is actually like. No time to rest, it's straight out to the first press conference with Land Rover chief designer Gerry McGovern telling us about the new special edition Evoque, the first fruits of the collaboration with Victoria Beckham. Looks pretty good as well and the Land Rover people are genuinely impressed with Victoria's input. Brand director John Edwards told me they have learned a lot from her about protecting the brand - she is very focused. We'll get to meet her at tomorrow's event.
Friday 20 April
14.28 (GMT) Heathrow airport
So, here we go again - on the road once more for the next round of the 2012 motor shows. Just checked into the BA lounge at T5, already spotted a couple of fellow travellers across a crowded room - PFPR out in in force with Peters Frater and Rawlinson, Ray Massey and Land Rover MD John Edwards. Bound to be a few more before long.
Looks like a busy schedule ahead with a couple of JLR events on Saturday and Sunday followed by the show proper on Monday and Tuesday followed by the Automotive News conference. You'll be able to read all about it on just-auto of course. Lensman Anthony Holdgate is a day ahead of me, probably still sleeping off the effects of the horse tranquillisers he takes to get him through economy class. I, on the other hand, am in the officers mess - you wouldn't expect anything less, surely?
No Lewis or Stansfield with me this time, dammit, looks like I'm going to have to do some work .......
Not cut out to be an assembler
30 Mar 2012 12:23
Just be grateful 'CJ' didn't install this Qashqai dashboard...
I will not be called upon to assemble Nissans any time soon.
Having just spent the day at the company's Sunderland factory in north east England, I found that I couldn't pass the basic skills test, the first towards getting a job on the line. It involved screwing three plates onto a frame and, although I completed the task, it was not within the 'qualifying' time. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with my DIY efforts.
Time means everything on the Sunderland line where the tac time is 59 seconds as the plant churns out more than 420,000 cars a year - Qashqais, Jukes and Notes. And there's more to come with Leaf starting production there next year.
That is the next challenge along with bringing a new battery plant on stream which will supply both Nissan and Renault vehicles. We were visiting the factory for a progress report and all is going to plan.
Plant director Kevin Fitzpatrick said: "My ambition is to keep Sunderland as the number one plant in the UK." He expects output to rise over the next two years with the additional vehicles, including a new B-segment hatch from 2013, and with the Juke selling better than expected.
The Japanese manufacturer has sunk over GBP3.3bn into the factory since 1986 and now employs 4,900 people, 133 are still there from the original 430.
I did somewhat better with the driving as we were let loose on the test track in the awesome GTR and the Juke-R which shares the scary 3.8-litre twin turbo V6 and has an even scarier top speed of 160mph.
At least I thought I had done rather well until Jann Mardenborough from Nissan's PlayStation driving academy took the controls. But then he's obviously done it before...
Le blog de Genève
08 Mar 2012 13:25
A well-earned night out for the team after two busy press days
Wednesday 7 March
TL - 7.00pm (CET) Lausanne
Wednesday - so we - that is Ant (273 pix and counting) Holdgate, boss Anna Ruddock and your correspondent - catch the train and rendezvous with the rest, hosted by Kia's Steve Kitson at a pub called the Pinte Besson in, appropriately, rue d'Ale. We have picked up, if you'll forgive the expression, Georgia Fox of Sims Images. She too is staying out in Lausanne - well out of Lausanne, as she puts it. Pinte Besson is reputedly the oldest hostelry in Lausanne but it serves traditional fondue which we have down our end while Stansfield, Wright and co tuck into the biggest steaks ever seen.
Almost. Well, they probably deserve it. Another show done, emails praising the coverage are shared. How can we improve for next time, asks Roger.
You'll have to wait. And by the way, did you know women have to use 10,000 words a day, but men only 2,000? That's Georgia's theory and she and Anna seemed to prove it. Strong, silent type signing off.
CJ - 5.50pm (CET)
I think that's me just about done. Back at the hotel and all copy written. Time I think to kick back and have a beer or two. The team is meeting up with the Kia PR team this evening. Let's see who wins.
TL - 1.00pm (CET)
Now here's an idea - guilty pleasures (of the four wheel kind) at a motor show, particularly Geneva where the Swiss love their styling. These are cars that you know you shouldn't like but do, according to Ford's Tim Holmes. How about Mansory and Gemball (or should that be Gumball?) for starters? Perhaps not. Any suggestions will be considered!
CJ - 12.50pm (CET)
This is all going downhill very quickly. Getting round the hall is impossible now the heaving masses have entered. Mind you, they seem to be quaffing the hospitality booze with a gusto that many a hack would be proud of. Just heard about Dacia’s plans for the UK and then left my phone on their stand. Why should that induce blind panic? We never used to have mobile phones or email how on earth did we ever manage? Renault then gave me a quick lunch for which I will be forever grateful and then left my bag on their stand. I now have everything back and making my way to the Kia stand to do some writing. Oh no, where are my trousers………
TL - 11.12am (CET) Geneva Palexpo
First baby spotted - well at least it was on second press day and not first when the 'surely too young to be journalists' count was a modest two, both aged around eight or nine.
CJ - 8.00am (CET)
A lie-in, of sorts. Maybe it was more than one last night. Anyway, most of the group are flying back to the UK later this morning but Roger, Steve Kitson and I are heading back to the shows – another pretty full day ahead. I am sooooooo looking forward to it. Plan is to leave early-ish and spend the evening touring the fleshpots of Lausanne. Well, having a fondue anyway. That should please Ant, it’s yellow.
TL - 6.30am (CET)
Forget what I said about Swiss trains last night - first one woke me at 4.30am then regularly from 6am. I need to sleep with the window open and my room in the splendid Royal backs onto the main line. Oh well, at least it gave me time to ponder more metrication: Mark Adams, Opel/Vauxhall chief designer, told me that the Mokka was only 10in longer than a Corsa. So that's 25cm or 25.4cm, as Andrew Didlick tells me.
Tuesday 6 March
TL - 18.30 (CET)
Much though we appreciate having a door-to-door chauffeur service (the aforementioned Peugeot 5008, now seven up including including driver), there is something to be said for using Geneva's free public transport service for show visitors – it's quick! The interminable traffic around Palexpo meant it took more than an hour from leaving the show to getting back downtown. Still, the conversation was entertaining. After nine interviews a beer seems appropriate before getting back to writing.
CJ - 2.30pm (CET)
So, the question is: how do people get the time to sit down and eat? I've been darting from stand to stand and each one is rammed with people filling their faces. But then, as ever, a good number of then can't possibly be journos. Just been in a round table with Opel boss Karl Freidrich Stracke who kept his cards very close to his chest on the subject of Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory. Everything is on the table, he said. Read into that what you will. Haven't seen photo shooter Ant since we met in the press room at 7.30am. He's obviously drowned in a sea of reveals. Either that or he's sitting on a stand eating.
CJ - 12.30pm (CET)
So far, I've been running to catch up since that early interview was delayed but I have had some interesting chats with Jeep, Ford, Suzuki and Honda. I've also bumped into a whole bunch of people I have not had a chance to actually stop and talk to. Next stop is the Kia stand. Two coffees and two cokes so far but no food. Someone pulled a lead out of the sound system on the Fiat stand earlier which sent a buzz - a very loud feedback buzz - through the show. This was followed a few minutes later by what sounded like a gunshot. Rather harsh punishment I thought. Also I would like thank Ford for playing the loudest imaginable music while I was interviewing Mike Manley at Jeep. We ended up yelling at each other and I've been hoarse ever since.
TL - 11.00am (CET)
Why do we still use mpg in the UK when all fuel has been sold in litres for 10 years? It was a question raised by Auto Express editor-in-chief Steve Fowler over dinner last might and emerged again this morning when we learnt that the Peugeot 208 will have emissions of between 87g/km and 99/km for the diesel model and from 99g/km for petrol models. See, grammes and kilometres again. Shouldn't we at least have miles per litre for fuel consumption or go the whole hog and switch to kilometres and litres per 100km for consumption? Buy Auto Express to find out the results of their survey, said Fowler, who revealed that a surprisingly large number of people favour miles per litre. Will it ever catch on?
CJ - 09.00 (CET) Geneva Palexpo
I don't know why I find this amusing but two place names on the way in from Lausanne were Gland and Coppet. Anyway the day has got off to a bad start with the first interview being delayed by half an hour which is going to have a bit of a domino effect. Having arrived at the show at 7.30am it all seemed nice and quiet. Not so now, I have already tripped over three trolley bags and why are these people wandering around looking at cars? Haven't they got any work to do?
CJ - 06.30 (CET) Lausanne
We are back on the bus with a packed breakfast. To be honest all I can manage is half a bun and a coffee, after all it is 5.30am at home. It's going to be a long, long day as I'm having dinner with Renault this evening so I will not get back to the hotel until around 11pm. Last night's Kia unveil was in an old stable and I'm sure there's a gag there somewhere but it's too early to think of one.
Monday 5 March
TL - 11.00pm (CET)
Fascinating evening with Keith Ryder, Peugeot's veteran designer, currently working on mid-size cars (so that'll be the 308 replacement, not that he would admit it). Keith, who hails from north-east England, has been with Peugeot for some 28 years and a couple of years ago decided he needed a change so spent 18 months in Sao Paulo, setting up Peugeot's Brazilian design studio. They have huge talent there, he says, and are extremely hard working.
The Sao Paulo studio has 3D capability but doesn't yet extend to building mock-ups. It joins Shanghai and Paris as the third of Peugeot's global design centres. One tip: drive a black car in Brazil. Keith had a 307CC which also had blacked out windows and was never stopped or hassled in the streets. "They must have thought I was a drug dealer," he joked.
TL - 6.10pm (CET)
You really can get six adults and their luggage in a Peugeot 5008 even if Peugeot PR Kevin Jones had to volunteer for the third row alongside the luggage. He assured us there was plenty of room, urging me in the seat ahead of him to move my seat back. Makes a change from catching the train from the airport and walking to the Capitole or the Nashville which have been headlineauto's show stopovers in recent years. The Hotel Royal where Andrew Didlick has us ensconced isn't far from either so handily placed.
Just heard that our snapper Ant Holdgate has had a long delay at London City airport but he's fairly confident of getting in this evening. I won't be joining him for our customary eve of show strategy meeting (a couple of beers at a rather good bar close to the station); dinner with Peugeot's design chief Gilles Vidal is on the agenda.
TL - 5.35pm (CET) - Geneva
Record time from home and through security at Bristol airport (just 19 minutes) gets the first part of the annual Geneva outing off to a good start. Sometimes we need to be thankful for EasyJet. Flying solo as I normally do for Geneva but at least I'm meeting up with Peugeot at the other end and staying with them which should be better than the hotels I normally end up in!
[PR chief] Andrew Didlick has just emailed to book me in for a round table with Frederic St Geours, VP of PSA brands tomorrow. That's interview #9 for me and takes the headlineauto team's tally above 25 for the first press day. It's going to be a busy show - and Matt reckons there are some 130 debuts as well.
This is, I think, my 24th Geneva show and my 20th successive one. I still get a buzz from it - will I still feel like that tomorrow night?
CJ - 2.00pm (CET) - Geneva
Off 'plane and on bus for one hour ride to the hotel in Lausanne. Back into Geneva this evening for a Kia presentation then out for steak and chips...
CJ - 12.50pm (GMT)
Somewhere over France. The BA flight is packed with most of the UK motor industry and journos. Quick chat with Vauxhall boss Duncan Aldred as we were in the queue to board. He was giving nothing away re speculation over Ellesmere Port but that's only to be expected. Roger has time with him tomorrow morning while I am seeing Opel chief Karl-Freidrich Stracke a bit later in the day.
CJ - 9.45am (GMT) - BA departure lounge, Heathrow
Well here we go again, bound for Geneva. Arrived in the BA lounge with the Kia massive. Colleague Roger Stansfield present and correct and moaning about the speed (lack of) of the wifi. Lewis will be joining the crew later going in from far flung Bristol airport. I have already had my shaving foam and deodorant taken away (it was ok last week). So a trip to the shops in the departure lounge which is normally against my religion. Looks like it's going to be a busy one, the three of us have something like 20-plus interviews to get through tomorrow and more on Wednesday so look out for a flood of copy - when we get to write it that is.
Geneva and the end of winter
01 Mar 2012 10:01
Geneva 2011. Compact PalExpo venue an easy walk from the airport is popular with journalists and auto executives alike
I am looking forward to next week’s Geneva Motor Show – I always do. As well as being an important date on the automotive calendar, the Geneva event always seems to mark the end of winter. This year promises to be an exciting show with more than 100 debuts at the last count and some highly interesting news to follow up on.
It will be interesting to hear the ‘world on the street’ from insiders at PSA and General Motors about the new alliance. At the Detroit show in early January there was much speculation that PSA was doing a deal with Fiat after Sergio Marchionne and Phillipe Varin were spotted together. It was a rumour quickly quashed by the Fiat boss who said they were attending a regular meeting of CEOs.
You often have to read between the lines when talking to executives and, to be fair, Marchionne did not seem to be trying to divert us along another path and events this week have shown this to be correct. One thing Marchionne does keep telling us is that there will be more alliances and that we still have a big overcapacity problem in Europe.
No doubt that’s something we will be talking to car bosses about next week.
Detroit with a difference
11 Jan 2012 17:57
It was Detroit with a difference this year. Different largely because of the weather.
I’ve been covering this show for 20 years or so and the city has almost always been covered in snow and certainly freezing cold – minus 17C on one occasion.
Standing outside the Cobo Hall on the morning of the second press day, the sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm, +7C – almost unheard of. Exactly a year ago, my connecting flight through New York on the way home was cancelled because of snow storms.
The warmth this year spread through to the inside of the Cobo Hall. This was Detroit Show with a buzz about it even though there is small chance of the market returning the 16m plus of the mid-2000s. Now, the industry has shaken out and finds it can still make money in a market hovering around 13m.
No outrageous giant SUVs and pick-ups this year, the Ford Fusion and the Dodge Dart represented a softer, more environmentally-friendly approach to new modelsm though there were still cars to drool over. The new Porsche Carrera Cabriolet was one, while it was arguably outdone by the stunning Acura NSX.
Like most shows these days, most companies were talking green but there is still a heavy reliance on the internal combustion engine in the US. Petrol remains considerably cheaper than in Europe but reduced mpg and CO2 is very much at the forefront for all the carmakers with 40mpg seemingly the holy grail.