Dave Leggett | 30 September 2008
I'm heading to Paris tomorrow - press day at the show is on Thursday. Should be an interesting show, one or two important models on display. I'll be sure to get a look at the Chevrolet Volt (while at the GM stand, I've an interview scheduled with GM COO Fritz Henderson - Rick Wagoner's plans changed and he's not visiting Paris now; he's a busy lad I guess). Lots of seductive metal, creative solutions and clever engineering to marvel at.
Beyond the usual auto show glitz, the elephant in the front room that is now breaking some of the furniture is the general economic situation and the consequences that will have for the auto industry. Next year will be another tough one on the volume front with little prospect of volume recovery in Europe before 2010. And when that recovery to demand comes, the market will likely be shifting further towards lower margin and smaller vehicles, packed with even more stuff that has to be paid for and will increasingly come as standard. That means pressure on profits will be unrelenting, even when demand picks up.
And the bail-out from emerging markets may have eased by then, too - emerging markets don't defy gravity forever and outsourcing strategies may be hit by higher transport costs.
The successful companies will have the right product line-ups coming through to do well in that market environment. And this show should provide pointers on that.
As per usual, I've been hunting down details of the hotel where I am staying, having put that small detail right out of my mind since booking it online weeks ago. I've now tracked the relevant emails/paperwork down and that's all fine. And I even know where I am going when I get on the Metro, but the Eurostar train booking from London-Paris isn't all sorted. There was a fire in the tunnel a while back and the trains still aren't running properly.
On the steerage ticket I'm on, I have to turn up at London St Pancras station and join the throng and bun-fight to rebook myself on another train because the one I was booked on no longer exists. I fully understand that problems happen to transport providers and I'm okay with that. I'm glad the fire wasn't more serious and I have every sympathy with Eurotunnel. It's no picnic as a business (mountains of debt to service), but I'm a fan of anything that lessens airport hell. And those trains are fast.
But it was only because I happened to be talking about tomorrow's journey with a colleague I'm travelling with that we even identified a potential issue with cancelled trains. We then made a 'let's just double check' call to Eurostar's customer services people and the sorry story with its slightly inconvenient consequences unfolded. You'd think there might have been an email notifying me (they had my email address to send the booking ref for Chrissakes) that my train has been cancelled wouldn't you? I could have been much more seriously inconvenienced if I'd assumed, in the absence of direct communication to the contrary, that all was fine. Oh, and I can't make a rebooking over the phone or online and sort it now, there's a bun-fight to be faced tomorrow.
Okay, that's enough griping already. I'm going to Paris to a car show and that's not a bad way to spend 24 hours, I know.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....
Given the startling complexity of obtaining a journalist visa for China - the code 'J2' is now indelibly stamped on my mind - it was with some surprise how swiftly I managed to sail through airport im...