THE WEEK THAT WAS: Results season and London show time
So much for the auto industry being quiet in mid-summer. Not this week, it wasn't, with a suprisingly interesting London motor show out east in Docklands and some equally surprising second quarter/first half and first fiscal quarter results from a whole bunch of automakers.
The British International Motor Show at the Excel exhibition centre, is still establishing itself and is not yet a truly 'international' event at the same level as Detroit, Geneva, Frankfurt, Paris or Tokyo. That didn't stop a fair contingent of European journalists showing up for product launch events staged ahead of the show which is more like Los Angeles, a 'selling show' geared primarily to local buyers.
Although there were some car maker no shows, we reckon any paying punter now making the trek from central London (try four metro train changes the way Bozo here chose to go; there are easier routes) will probably have a good day out because, as well as lots of cars on stands, and loads of electric models, there are several hands-on opportunities to actually drive some in a separate arena alongside the River Thames.
The undisputed model-launch star was General Motors Europe's new Opel/Vauxhall Insignia, unveiled in some style - with the aid of a crane - alongside Tower Bridge the night before, and a big enough event to lure GM's 'product czar' Bob Lutz over from the States and GME chief Carl-Peter Forster from Opel HQ near Frankfurt.
Nabbed by both yours truly and just-auto chief Dave Leggett, Lutz, as always, had plenty to say. He loves electric vehicles, promised an "onslaught of new products", thinks diesels will struggle in the US and assured us GM would be OK despite the current problems in North America.
Forster provided an insider's view of those North American issues in contrast with GME's current good fortunes.
He also confirmed GME would share architecture and platforms with the US while Ford this week said it would convert several truck and SUV plants to build a half-dozen of its European designs over there, likely little changed apart from the usual regulatory requirements and local customer expectations.
Quarterly results suggested times are tough but automakers (and their accountants) are on the case. Banner headline for Ford's Q2 was '$8.7bn loss' but $8bn of that was a reality-check writing down of assets and the finer detail suggested Alan Mulally's cost-cutting, hard though it is on those losing jobs, is continuing to make headway. Honda today surprised with a fine fiscal Q1 result that surprised analysts, but has throttled back full-year forecasts to reflect North American reality.
Enjoy your weekend,