Shanghai Autoshow: The CEO Dilemma

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Due to some adroit planning, important auto shows in the world’s largest market and the world’s second largest fall in the same week this year. CEOs of the world’s top automakers have a dilemma: Shanghai or New York?

European and Japanese carmakers know where their bread is buttered. They went to China. A massive show of police force was the first indicator that today would be a day of very important people..

Some last glitches needed to be fixed at the Volkswagen display. Did anyone say that there are electrical problems?

The brand was also polished. After that, everything was a go.

This morning, one of the first press conferences was given by Volkswagen. The teleprompter gave away who would be coming.

CEO Martin Winterkorn and his board were in full attendance in China. Here, Winterkorn is getting last instructions for the speech.

Which were promptly ignored. The brief was. “Smile!”

R&D Chef Ulrich Hackenberg presented the new New Beetle.

Volkswagen China’s sales chief Soh Weiming also had his appearance – on a concept for an electric scooter. As if China doesn’t have enough of the things. But possibly, Volkswagen wants to break into that market also. Billions of units could be sold.

“Come on, Uli, let’s go over to Audi.”

At Audi, something seemed in need of an unveiling.

A little more than planned was unveiled, but you needed a motor drive to spot the wardrobe malfunction.

It’s the Audi Q3. Finally.

Presented by Audi CEO Rupert Stadler.

Nissan sent its CEO, Carlos Ghosn.

Renault sent its CEO, Carlos Ghosn (here photographed when visiting the Nissan booth.)

On Monday, The Nikkei [sub] was still wondering whether Akio Toyoda would go to Shanghai. Not because they thought he would go to New York. The Nikkei gathered Toyota’s CEO might be busy managing the aftermath of the March 11 tsunami. And indeed, “I was conflicted about my trip to China right up until the time of my departure,” Toyoda said.

However, the Shanghai tour became a little dangerous for Toyoda. After a perilous climb on top of the roof on the Reiz concept …

… Toyota slipped and nearly crashed to the floor, would two Chinese ladies, who apparently are as strong as they are beautiful, not have intervened.

And the Americans? Let’s just say that Ford sent its Asia and Pacific Chief Joe Hinrichs.

Along with Ford’s Director for Global Electrification, Nancy Gioia.

So now you know how the CEO dilemma was handled at select carmakers. This report does not claim completeness. At the Shanghai Auto Show, sometimes ten press events are scheduled in parallel. The lone reporter has to perform triage and pick one. Speaking of reporters: At an intimate round-table, hosted by Toyota for select media, an American reporter asked whether Toyoda would go to the New York Auto Show. Masami Doi, General Manager for global communications, bit his tongue and answered: “We don’t comment on the CEO’s travel schedule.”

i Q3. Finally.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Apr 19, 2011

    Never quite fit the definition of dilemma, which are two equally appealing choices. Thesedays, there is really only one choice between Shanghai and NYC, and that's China. No better evidence of the emerging new world order. Re wardrobe malfunction at q3 premere, I'll bet in a few days, there willbe video of that on you tube.

    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Apr 19, 2011

      I bet Toyoda falling into the hands of the Chinese booth babes will be first. A lot of cameras were pointing in his direction when it happened.

  • Tekdemon Tekdemon on Apr 19, 2011

    I'm not sure that fall was accidental! Who would mind falling into the arms of two beautiful booth babes....

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