Blog: Dave LeggettJD Power conference

Dave Leggett | 24 April 2008

I am back from Frankfurt now. It was quite busy yesterday. I shelled out €22 at the JD Power forecasting conference venue for wi-fi Internet access for the day, so felt compelled to get some stories out live from the event. The €22 charge seems excessive, but what can you do? Swisscom had me over a barrel. Anyway, I was sat in the corner tip-tapping away (links to items posted yesterday are below), while attempting simultaneously to listen to the content-rich proceedings. I was also still determined to catch up with people I knew at the event during any breaks. And there were telephone messages to collect, people to email, as per any day.

Incidentally, the Flybe travelling experience (Southampton-Frankfurt return incl. all taxes GBP144) was pretty good after an inauspicious start. Going out on Tuesday, the Dash 8-400 turboprop got as far as taxiing down the runway and the double bell ready for take-off before the captain decided there was a technical problem that needed looking at. So it was back to the stand and a bunch of people in high-vis jackets conversing with the captain, much scratching of heads. We eventually had to change planes and that meant a two-hour delay. The captain said the problem had everyone perplexed and ‘might be a wiring problem’. Perhaps it was a dodgy sensor.

While we could all have done without the inconvenience, they did rustle up a replacement plane and on reflection, I’d rather they play safe with things like that every time. Rather paradoxically perhaps, I was now feeling better about flying Flybe. But the delay meant I got to Frankfurt airport around 8:30pm and by the time I had caught a train and walked from the main rail station (I actually wanted the exercise) across the city centre to my hotel it was ten o’clock. Return flight on Flybe yesterday went like clockwork and the staff seemed pretty good. All in all, I’d use the airline again.

The small Frankfurt hotel I stayed in I found on a website and it is part of a chain (VCH). At €77 a night it was excellent value. Clean and modern, good buffet breakfast (great coffee, always a good barometer) and it just meant a ten-minute walk to the conference venue yesterday morning. Friendly receptionist said the minibar in my room was included in the price. This I had to see and I wondered if she had meant excluded rather than included. But no, it really was included in the €77 which was fully all-in, including breakfast.

Okay, the minibar wasn’t exactly stacked with goodies, but there were a few bottles of juice, water and there was even a bottle of beer in there. Nice touch. I’d stay there again. And I like the German way of saying ‘Morgen’ to literally everyone you come across first thing - as in walk into the breakfast room and bellow ‘Morgen!’ to no-one in particular. Cracks me up. And there’s always a good response. You get that more in the smaller places. Suffice to say on the hotel front, that a few people I spoke to were paying five times as much for a single night elsewhere…

After lunch and just before the afternoon session I did a quick video clip with Bob Schnorbus outside the conference venue (Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof) on the ‘how bad will it get?’ theme. You can click on it below. His answer to that question is that the US light vehicle market is getting near the bottom on the basis of the economic situation as we currently know it. However, if things were to worsen, there’s potential to go lower and get nearer to an annualised SAAR light vehicle market rate of 14m units. But Bob’s not saying that we're there, yet. I had quite a long chat with him about how political forecasts get. He reckoned he’d stuck his neck out recently in going under 15m for 2008, but that he was far from alone now, everyone revising down. One thing to watch will be the rebound. How quickly will the market come back? Bob’s cautious on that one.

Before I left for home, I had time for a quick drink in the bar with JD Power’s European production analyst and old DRI (it's called Global Insight these days) buddy and partner in crime Arthur Maher. Good to see him on good form and still remembering our antics in Frankfurt back in 1993...

GERMANY: European car market outlook mixed – forecasters

GERMANY: US light vehicle market headed under 15m – JD Power

GERMANY: Logistics costs a barrier to CEE expansion – ArvinMeritor

 

JD Power analyst Arthur Maher unwinds


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