You would have thought the VW Group's board members could have raised a smile at today's announcement of their record sales and profits - but then perhaps they are used to taking such good news in their stride.
Instead, the nine men charged with revealing the figures sat stoney faced, taking turns to read from scripts. And after each bit of good news, came the same message: "We are on the right road to success, we are not there yet."
Presumably they were leaving the celebrations to the 500,000 or so workers who were getting news of a bonus payment of more than £6000 each off the back of a profit-sharing scheme, a figure up 90 per cent year-on-year.
Much of the management's caution comes back to chairman Professor Dr Martin Winterkorn's publicly stated goal of making the VW Group sustainably the world's largest car maker by 2018 - by which he means consistently the biggest on merit, not because of problems that befall its rivals (the Japanese tsunami being a case in point). They are not there yet, so the message was one of an unrelenting quest to improve.
How will they achieve this? “By building the best cars and attracting the best workers,” effectively summarises Winterkorn’s view, but of course – right though he is - it’s not that simple.
Instead, Winterkorn is demanding growth in every market, something that not only boosts the bottom line but helps protect the company from regional fluctuations such as the current Eurozone crisis: sales in the US are finally on the rise (+23 per cent year-on-year, with Audi now looking at its own North American production plant), while emerging markets such as Russia (+74%) and India (+109%) are showing significant progress.
Winterkorn also cited the arrival of the Up as a key part of its expansion programme. "It is profitable and it represents a significant opportunity in a new market sector – or sectors," he said, before confirming plans for a budget version of the car is being investigated for emerging markets. "It also has future potential: in 2013 we will launch a version of the Up in Brazil, and we are investigating producing a version for India and China."
But it's later this year that VW will play its trump card, when it launches its first car based on the MQB platform. The Audi A3 and VW Golf will be the first of as many as 60 different models that will be based on MQB which is designed to be stretchable from Polo to Passat size – a first for the car industry.
Modularity doesn't end there, however: Winterkorn spoke at length about the savings of using modular engine, transmission, entertainment systems and so on. Furthermore, as the VW Group grows so too does its ability to drive down procurement costs. Put simply, the more similar parts it buys or makes, the lower the price it has to pay for them. It also means that each factory could produce different cars from different brands on the same lines, opening up incredible production flexibility.
It’s impressive stuff – especially if you’re lucky enough to be one of those workers on the profit-share scheme. My only concern – which may prove utterly unfounded – is how this will play out in terms of giving different cars based on the same platform architecture different characters. Modularity may cut costs, and it may produce consistently good cars, but if it leads to a homogenous feel for all similar VW Group cars, it may not be as good news for car buyers as it is for VW’s bottom line.