MONDAY AM - The most daunting, most exhilarating two days of our lives as car hacks occur every couple of years in mid-September. The Frankfurt motor show, to which we all obediently troop, is so packed with new models, so well attended by the right people, so vast in area and so vital to the future news/test agenda that you simply can’t miss it.
Attended my first in 1979, so this must have been my 19th, yet I’ve never managed to shake the fear, a couple of days beforehand, that my web of reporting arrangements will go seriously wrong.
At my first Frankfurt, Mercedes launched a super-aerodynamic S-Class – the W126 – that stressed the depth of its techno-credentials (much as it did this year with the magnificent IAA concept). As we arrived in Frankfurt this time, what should glide past but a healthy, well-used W126, still looking modern. Spent the rest of the trip wishing I could have seen its odometer.
MONDAY PM - Important highlight of Frankfurt was the much-heralded arrival of GM CEO Mary Barra. She hasn’t spent much time here because she’s been dealing with the aftermath of a serious ignition switch scandal, the kind of thing that regularly dogs US industry.
I was lucky enough to dine at the CEO’s table, surrounded by diplomats and respectful employees rather than platoons of scribblers, so it was possible to converse a bit and build a picture of a highly capable, articulate and affable car company boss, devoid of ego yet with obvious, effortless authority.
She seemed entirely genuine: a hard-working person whose knowledge of business and product came from deep experience. She loved engineering, she told me, and would be delighted if her example encouraged more girls into technology. Ended the evening convinced that General Motors, that unwieldy and restless giant, is safer in Barra’s hands than others I could name.