Blog: Simon WarburtonFrom an airport hotel

Simon Warburton | 29 November 2012

Travelling can be an unusual lark sometimes.

I'm in Brussels - as someone pointed out replete with Eurosceptic views - for CLEPA's annual Aftermarket Conference - but I have no real idea I'm in Belgium at all yet.

After enduring Manchester airport's horrendous queues yesterday - a vast line shuffling inches forward for hours - with thousands of people potentially not spending anything on victuals or travel retail for that matter - I eventually arrived in the Belgian capital.

But the conference is taking place at a hotel just next to the airport, so for the last 24h, I've been cocooned in this vast building with no sense at at all I'm even in a foreign country. Apart from the TV showing cross-country skiing that is - a lung-busting sport I tried once and have never been back to since.

Hats off to CLEPA though. A record turnout and some terrific networking opportunites make this conference a must on the calendar and we had some fascinating insights into the aftermarket world.

As well as interviewing CLEPA CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, I also spoke to his predecessor Lars Holmqvist, who told me about protesting Belgian farmers dumping 15,000L of milk in Brussels this week and his Swedish counterpart at Scandinavian suppliers association, FKG, Fredrik Sidahl, who gave me yet another twist in the endless Saab story.

I also spoke to the French suppliers body, FIEV, who I met a while back in Paris and who were enthusiastic about the likes of Renault setting up operations in Morocco, a position with which I doubt the unions will agree.

ZF Friedrichshafen CEO, Stefan Sommer, was here too,  which was apt as his company is now in advanced talks with GM concerning the Strasbourg transmissions plant.

As I write this, darkness has fallen and there are rumours snow is on the way to Belgium. That I can well believe as the hotel - for whatever reason - has left the front doors wide open and the full arctic blast is pouring in.

CLEPA has sourced me a billet in town tonight, so I can actually feel I'm in
Brussels ahead of seeing Belgian supplier body, Agoria and the ABVV union tomorrow about the Ford Genk situation. Should be interesting. 


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