Blog: Hittin' the tracks
Dave Leggett | 21 February 2008
I'm back from a brief visit to Cologne to make a presentation on road wheels at the Tire Expo held at Koelnmesse. Rail versus air? It's a semi thumbs-up. I took the Eurostar train from London to Brussels and then changed to the THALYS high-speed train to Cologne. If I'm honest, the whole thing took longer than flying, but it was possible to do some work on the trains and you could stretch your legs, wander down to the buffet car at will. As a fellow passenger summed it up: why put yourself through the misery of flying and Heathrow when you can do this instead?
That said, the rail option from UK to the Continent is really best on direct services from London (Paris, Lille, Brussels). Changing trains adds quite a bit of time on and I'd say the western part of Germany is about as far as you'd want to go before deciding that the aggro of Heathrow is actually worth bearing on grounds of time.
How about the event itself? I did my duty and must hope that some people got something out of what I had to say. The road technology session did seem pretty niche and my presentation was there to simply provide an introductory overview - based on what is in our road wheels report. Not sure how many people got my 'wheely good to be here' opening quip. They may have thought I have a Jonathan Woss style speech impediment.
The whole steel wheels versus aluminium alloy discussion is one that interests me, I must say. The way the steelmakers, steel wheel firms and vehicle makers have met the challenge from aluminium alloys - in terms of reducing weight and decor - is impressive. But which way will it go in the future? We say aluminium has hit a high-water mark, but much depends on vehicle market segmentation and where volumes are actually growing fastest. In emerging markets, low-unit price mass market vehicles will be fitted with steel wheels, of course. But as markets develop and premium segments grow, that can expand demand for aluminium wheels. 'Emerging markets' are not homogenous. Russia is very different to Brazil. Some brands/models go with aluminium alloys rather than steel.
Anyway, the presentation is available for download if anyone's curious.
Also, there are a couple of pictures below snapped in Cologne yesterday. The cathedral in Cologne is pretty impressive, to say the least. Cologne took a severe pounding from Allied bombers during WW2, but the cathedral was missed. The city centre rebuild was a from-scratch job and the prevailing concrete architecture certainly didn't look too inspiring in the grey and drizzle yesterday. But there's a lot of building work going on, so maybe some better looking modern architecture is coming.
On that plaform shot at Cologne station you'll notice a big blue structure with a Ford tagline on it in the background. It's a concert venue and We Will Rock You is playing. Not sure why, but wanted to share that.
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