I’ve sat through quite a few of these ‘round tables’, when about a dozen journalists cram around a conference table, fire questions at the boss and scribble down the answers.
Hopefully the answers come back in some sort of printable form and most of us hacks are well-practised in turning these events into usable words for our readers, although they can be hugely frustrating if the exec isn’t in a co-operative mood.
Neumann definitely doesn’t fall into this category. In fact I’d go as far to say he’s one of the two most impressive GM bosses I’ve ever seen in action in interviews.
Given that English is not his first language, the former-VW exec has a fine grasp of the nuances of the English language and is ready to share a joke. But most importantly Neumann comes across as an impressive leader of a company with a clear strategy, a financial recovery plan and a willingness to communicate.
Being an engineer and one-time head of VW’s electronics R&D, Neumann undoubtedly understands the new wave of connectivity and importance of electrical systems architecture that is opening up as a new front in the global car industry.
And given the decisive strategic and tactical actions that Vauxhall-Opel seems to be putting in place, Neumann’s leadership appears to be motivating where it matters – in the design and engineering studio, marketing and dealers.
Of course there’s still plenty to do at Vauxhall-Opel, not least delivering the promise of break-even by ‘mid-decade’, which is about 18 months time.
Longer–term, GM harbours a desire to regain its position as Europe’s number two best-seller, moving up from today’s number three spot, and I wouldn’t wager against it.
But we’ll really see whether there’s substance to this recovery next year when a new Vauxhall Corsa and new Agila followed by a new Astra make 2015 one of the most important years ever for Vauxhall and Opel.