Reasonably impressive performance on Saturday evening from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who turned up in Stuttgart to help Daimler celebrate the 125th anniversary of the invention of the automobile (the patent was filed on 29 January 1886).
You’d think that the slickly organised bash, held in Mercedes-Benz’s ultra-impressive museum, would have been little more than a couple of hours of corporate back-slapping. And you’d almost be right.
Names like Michael Schumacher barely made it to the front row of the audience; a ‘happy birthday’ video was packed with tributes from names like Bernie Ecclestone, Sly Stallone, Clint Eastwood and, er, Lionel Richie. Daimler even wheeled out Jutta Benz, great-granddaughter of Karl himself, for a personal appearance.
There was music - Merc found an employee’s son to highlight ‘synergy’ between Daimler’s craftsmanship and that of Steinway pianos - and humour. “There is something exciting about being able to drive a nice open sports car, on a beautiful day, with the wind in your hair,” said Daimler’s follically challenged chairman Dr Dieter Zetsche. “At least, that’s what someone told me…”
But when it came to Merkel’s speech, the huge auditorium was pretty sombre and attentive. Germans, it appears, are concerned about their continued ability to lead the world’s premium car markets. There are worries that cutbacks to education and R&D budgets could kick in, that an ageing population may lack the creative push to bring enough developments to stay at the top of an industry that employs 720,000 of the country’s people.