Blog: Tony Lewisle blog de Paris...

Tony Lewis | 28 September 2012

A motor show first, the unveiling of a piano, designed by Peugeot

A motor show first, the unveiling of a piano, designed by Peugeot

Friday 28 September

11.00 (BST) - Chris 'CJ' Wright

Not the Paris blog: While some have been taking it easy in Paris I have been tearing around preparing for the wedding of the year tomorrow. Yep, Ellie's big day [she's PR Communications Executive at Honda UK - ed] has come round already and the house is now full of brides, bridesmaids and bride's mothers. The Flying Spur has just arrived thanks to our chums at Bentley. Drinks for the ‘day-after' bash were delivered to the wrong address. They must have thought Christmas had come early;, waistcoat has arrived from the fancy dress,er, hire shop and hopefully the suit will still fit. Wedding dress collected and hanging up out of reach of the dogs who will eat anything. New bridesmaids dress in the nick of time because one of them has lost so much weight and not one, but three outfits for the MoB. Tell you what, covering motor shows is a lot easier than organising weddings

08.00 (CET) - Roger Stansfield

A lovely autumn day in Paris. For all its chaotic nature at times, it is a lovely city - and not only the touristy bits. Some of the side streets hide real gems in the form of shops far removed from the chain stores that blight most UK towns and cities. A short stroll from my hotel there is a deli with more different cheeses than you'd think it was possible to cram into one place at one time. I'm tempted, but then I think of my fellow airline passengers. Anyway, I'm not going to be home much in the next few days and am rather concerned that could it upset the equilibrium of everything else stored in my fridge.

I'm on a lunchtime flight back to Blighty, so I'll have to leave Tony to mop up at the show. The run to the airport is surprisingly straightforward, though the CRS, France's dreaded riot police, do seem to be out and about in abundance. Charles de Gaulle is anything but my favourite airport, but even the formalities there are dispensed with quickly and efficiently. Without wishing to tempt fate before the plane departs, it has all passed off extremely well. 

Thursday 27 September

2200 (CET) - Tony Lewis

It took more than an hour to drive 6km [4 miles] to dinner - and you thought traffic in the UK was bad!

We were heading for what I was assured was  a favourite eatery of the Peugeot PR team, Brasserie Flo in the 10th district. The traffic was so bad that half of our party abandoned the journey and bailed out into the nearest watering hole.

They should have pressed on. Flo was rather good. And Peugeot designer Pierre Authier, the man behind the 208 and 2008, was in fine form, taking the sort of pride only a Frenchman can in choosing the wine.

Still, a Peugeot 508 isn't a bad place to sit and ponder the irony of how the city authorities are trying to discourage motorists by adding more bus lanes and tramways while playing host to the western world's most popular motor show. More than 1.2m people visited the 2010 show and 13,000 media. Historically, Chicago has laid claim to the most popular title with some 1.3m visitors but it's not a tier one show, so doesn't attract the media coverage or manufacturer interest.

And your correspondent did learn one thing. The panoramic roof in the 508 gives great views of the Parisian cityscape.

19.00 (CET) - Roger Stansfield

It's all gone according to schedule, the notebook is crammed with interviews and most of the stories have been filed. There are a couple still to do tomorrow, but right now I need a shower and something to eat. I left the hotel this morning before breakfast was being served and had to skip lunch (the French would be appalled at my failing to observe this sacred ritual) to keep on track. At around 9pm I finally get to touch a knife and fork for the first time in the day, in the hotel brasserie.

14.00 (CET) - Tony Lewis

Motor shows are noisy places at the best of times, so it's a little disorientating to walk onto a stand and hear what sounds likes a live radio show.

And that's just what was happening on the Jeep stand where Detroit's renowned WJR radio station had its own studio broadcasting for the folks in Michigan (breakfast back there at this time) but with a rather special guest, Sergio Marchionne, head of Fiat Chrysler, still wearing his trademark pullover despite the heat inside the halls. And it must have been even hotter inside the tiny studio judging by the apearance of the presenter and his assistant. Off to cool down in the drizzle.

07.20 (CET) - Roger Stansfield

Getting into the Paris show is not a straightforward business. Weeks before the event you have to apply online for accreditation, which is then e-mailed to you so you can print it out to take to the gate.

But this is not the end of the matter. Once inside the show facility on the south-west fringes of Paris you have to queue to get a lanyard to hold your accreditation. You then go outside the show site again to swap your accreditation for another, virtually identical, pass which the organisers print out. And then you queue for a wrist-band without which your pass is useless. Finally you queue to get back into the site.

All of this rather obstructs the business in hand, which is to talk to people.

Fortunately, and entirely by good luck rather than good management, my first four interviews are in the same hall. Journalists complain about the distances they cover at Frankfurt, which alternates with Paris for the autumn slot in the show calendar, but the French site is a sprawling complex, too, and if you're not careful a lot of time can be wasted in transit.

The day passes by in a blur of meetings, but we've spoken to some really interesting people who have a lot to say and are senior enough to be largely beyond the control of the PR machine. Late afternoon I suddenly realise that the only cars I've had a decent look at are those from the companies where I have had interviews, so I embark  on a whistle-stop tour to see the show highlights before heading back to the hotel.

Wednesday 26 September

23.00 (CET) - Tony Lewis

The Onyx was there, so were a scooter and expensive time trials bike. The Oynx is more than just a supercar concept, it is three vehicles, explained design chief Gilles Vidal. Read about them in the press release. What really caught the eye was the unveiling of a piano, a baby grand designed by Peugeot and built by Pleyel, the piano company. It's the first product to come out of the newly-formed Peugeot design centre and proved to be a major talking point among the assembled journos.

There's more to this than you might think. For a start it has a sale price of EUR165,000, making it a mid-range model in Pleyel's range. And it is on sale. So, a motor show first, the unveiling of a piano.

21.00 (CET) - Roger Stansfield

There are pre-show events all over Paris tonight as manufacturers show off their new wares to their specially invited guests. If I had the ability to be in three places at once I could have wrapped up a good portion of the show coverage without setting foot in any of the halls. As it is I've opted to go see the new Kia pro_cee'd and Carens at a venue somewhere in the east of the city.

The reveal is taking place at the Pavillons de Bercy, and specifically in the Salon Venitien. It doesn't look very Venetian to me, apart from the torrents of rain running outside which make the street look like a canal. Call me a gondola. [You're a gondola - Ed.]

Ninety minutes later we're away for some dinner. The chosen restaurant is L'Atelier Maitre Albert, a lovely old place which looks like the sound stage for a Resistance movie. It is down a side street opposite Notre Dame cathedral, which I can never look at without smiling. It reminds me of the scene in one of the Pink Panther movies where the hapless Inspector Clouseau ends up swinging from its ramparts, disguised as Quasimodo.

The steak frites and a couple of glasses of wine go down well. It's important to stock up the night before a show, rather like a camel taking on water before a Saharan expedition. If tomorrow runs to form, I won't get to eat until all the copy is filed in the evening.

12.30 (BST) - Tony Lewis

Bristol airport mid-morning is fairly civilised. The 6am-8am rush of easyjet and Ryanair flights has gone and the pace is less frenetic. Home to departure lounge in less than 15 minutes is a good way to start a Paris motor show.

Peugeot's ever-efficient Janet Brace booked me on Air France with the hope that it would be more civilised than easyJet, not realising that it's a turboprop (an ATR 42 if you must know; the blurb in the seat pocket tells us that these planes are 15% more efficient than a car over 600km and up to 40% more efficient than a propeller-less jet) so rather slower and more cramped than an orange Airbus. But we do get served drinks. Until a few years ago, BA operated daily flights to Paris from here (and Frankfurt, making European motor show coverage rather easier than having to flog up the M4 to Heathrow). Now the choice is easyJet or Air France. The French carrier did have a reputation for cancelling this flight. Not today and hopefully not on Friday when I'm on the last flight home.

Tonight we're off to Avenue Peugeot for the unveiling of the show concept car, the Onyx and then dinner with style chief Gilles Vidal.

10.30 (BST) - Roger Stansfield

Whenever the Paris show comes around you wonder what could possibly go wrong this time.

A few years ago the organisers forgot to switch on the air conditioning. With Paris sweltering in a heatwave and lights and computers blazing everywhere, you can imagine what that was like.

Another time there wasn't a taxi to be had as we left the show with full notebooks and deadlines looming.

I'm pondering this as I sit in the BA lounge at Heathrow, munching a slice of toast and checking my interview schedule for tomorrow. We've got some big-hitters lined up to chat to, and we'll be door-stepping others in search of a sound-bite or two.

It's going to be a good show - as long as the powers that be haven't lost the keys, or something.


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