Blog: Simon WarburtonMetering expectations

Simon Warburton | 16 January 2014

Huge sheets of ice are progressing in a stately manner down the Detroit River outside the Cobo and with forecast of snow this afternoon, it will feel more like Michigan in January than yesterday's almost balmy temperatures.

I'm in the Michelin Media Center after this morning's press conferences and where the tyre manufacturer kindly fed the hundreds of journos camped out in its huge hall.

Perhaps only the press can virtually stampede for a packed lunch, so I left them to it for half an hour before venturing forward.

The scene here is one of organised chaos - vast piles of laptops on desks - but everyone seems pretty trustful - their owners periodically wander off leaving their precious gadgets behind - a sort of honour among thieves I suppose.

This show is undeniably upbeat - an intoxicating mix of good news - albeit laced with painful memories of the recent past - but the TV news channels - all featuring unfeasibly upbeat presenters at fiercely early hours of the morning - are full of stories about how Detroit is cashing in on its annual beano.

I can relate to that. For the past four consecutive cabs I've caught to and from the Cobo/RenCen, the meter has been resolutely 'off.'

I got into a taxi from the RenCen last night only to notice the cabbie's cap firmly stuck over his meter.

Differing views as to the merits of his cap/meter system were aired before I reluctantly said, OK, we would 'settle' at ten bucks to my hotel.

As we set off - in completely the wrong direction - I asked why he was taking that route. 'Because of the other person,' he said. 'Eh, what other person?' I replied. 'The one in the back,' said the driver.

I couldn't see anything in the pitch blackness of the cab and street, when suddenly a voice behind me whispered quietly in the darkness: "It's the mafia..."

A brief period of silence later while I digested that slightly startling bit of information was followed by the voice identifying itself as a - witty - Canadian going back to his hotel but I was momentarily thrown.

A previous cabbie had offered to deposit me by the kerbside in downtown Detroit when I enquired as to the non-availability of a meter, so I was a little jittery, given the mystery passenger.

It was Automotive News' second dinner tonight at the RenCen, where the keynote speaker was - now - former General Motors CEO Dan Akerson who gave a tour de force account of GM's recent challenging times and received a standing ovation for his formidable work.

I had interviews with Johnson Controls and UAW president, Bob King, at the Congress today as well, while also having the slightly surreal experience of having an American sing a football chant back at me, in an English accent.

I also bumped into CLEPA CEO, Jean-Marc Gales, who I'm seeing at the Cobo tomorrow.

My cabbie back tonight was a font of knowledge about Detroit and once we'd established his meter was actually running, the irony was it was US$8 more expensive than the freelancers, but it felt better.

It's another round of interviews back at the Cobo tomorrow - CLEPA, Magna, BWI, Wanxiang et al - while the temperature is plummeting straight back down the gauge to more traditional Detroit January numbers.



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