By on October 12, 2011

Foreign reporters are a welcome interview target at the Global Automotive Forum in Chengdu, much to the amazement of the reporters who are used to interview other people. There is a lengthy interview with someone from TTAC. I don’t know what it says, it’s all in Chinese. (Don’t trust Google translate. Informed sources tell me the headline says: “Schmit: China’s car makers should open up to the media.”)

This will be the topic of tomorrow’s round table discussion. It’s not that Chinese automakers are biased against foreigners. Even Chinese colleagues tell me that doors close and phones get hung up when they reveal that they work for a foreign news outlet.

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13 Comments on “TTAC Makes Headlines In China...”

  • avatar


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I once accused you of looking like Otto Von Bismark. I take that back. You now look like Peter Sellers playing one of his characters, that’s an improvement. (Just ribbing you Bertel, I’m on a wiseguy kick today.)

    Why are Chinese car makers so tight lipped? Is it fear of the government if they say something they shouldn’t? Is it the mistakes that others have made that caused them to clam up? Or is it some cultral thing that as an American I fail to understand?

    • 0 avatar

      It has nothing to do with the government. Usually, it is simply people who are horrified of making a mistake.

      I discussed this with Chinese colleagues. They told me that there is no real tradition of reporting in China. For like 50 years, newspapers were only allowed to print what Xinhua had handed down. Those rules may even still be in effect, they are just no longer enforced. Chinese journalists ask much fewer questions, at least not in the open. Usually, only “inside sources” are named. Companies have a hard time understanding that westerners must have a quote for attribution.

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Understood. Hopefully they’ll reach an environment one day where there will be an understanding that “A mistake only becomes a mistake if you refuse to correct it.” Although sadly most of us don’t work under those conditions anyway regardless of the type of government we have.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always thought Bertel looks a lot like John Astin in his avatar photo.

      How come I can’t edit my own profile page?

  • avatar

    “I don’t know what it says, it’s all in Chinese.”

    How difficult is it to work in China if you don’t understand the language ? Has someone checked it to ensure they haven’t mis-quoted you as saying something like “Herr Schmitt thinks Americans are greatly anticipating the arrival of Chinese cars on their shores” ?

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure, but I think there might have been a little joke there that you missed. I have a vague memory of Bertel’s skills in Far East languages having been mentioned here before… See the microphones in both Bertel’s and his interviewer’s hands? I don’t think they’d bother recording an interview in English or any other (for them) foreign language; my guess would be, they *are* talking in Chinese. He was just being facetiously “modest”, avoiding repeating himself and thereby (tooting his own horn by) not (too obviously) tooting his own horn.

  • avatar


    Schmitt: Chinese Automakers Should Open up more toward Media

    I can attest that Mr Schmitt appears to be quoted correctly in Chinese (aside from the misspelled name).

  • avatar


    In China, the problem I faced is that no one is willing to pick up my phone calls, no one is willing to answer my questions, my questions being unanswered, and that may eventually lead to misconceptions about companies. I think its worthwhile for the Chinese enterprises to be aware of this phenomena and rethink about their approaches.

    – Western world is very interested in China’s automobile market and its development
    – However, China is not opening up its communication channels with media
    – Japan used to be like this but they adapted and is more willing to communicate with western media now
    – China is a strange market; all the money, none of the brand…
    – VW China is the brand with most potential – in fact they have bigger sales in China than in Germany

    Do you want me to translate the whole thing?

  • avatar

    Interesting last question, taking Toyota as a yardstick for Chinese car companies. So, one “T” less now?

  • avatar

    With one exception, the Chinese companies that have exhibited at the NAIAS haven’t had a clue of how to deal with journalists, with the single exception of Geely. It seems that they don’t even understand the importance of having booth personnel that can actually speak and understand English. Geely at least has some people who can actually understand your question and give you some kind of an answer.

    • 0 avatar

      Thought you were going to say: “…at least understand your question before ignoring it.”!

      • 0 avatar

        That too.

        I sometimes think there are national styles when it comes to the car companies at the big shows. The Germans have the most boring press conferences known to man – usually some guys with grey hair, and black suits, droning on and on in heavy Cherman accents. Japanese companies make a point of honoring their Japanese executives – some will even try to do the presentation as Akio Toyoda did at the NAIAS. The Koreans prefer to put American faces up front on stage but you can see the Hyundai and Kia execs from Korea watching intently from the periphery.

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