Seventy-eight-year-old Austrian journalist Georg Auer did 10 interviews in one day at the recent Paris auto show. And he always asked the right questions.
On this page we present highlights of Georg's busy day - actually just a typical day's work for the most industrious of auto industry reporters. Most of these interviews will be appear in their entirety in a later edition of Automotive News Europe.
For more on Georg, see Page 10.
Won't shoppers get wise to VW's brand strategy?
Robert Buchelhofer, group vice president of sales and marketing at Volkswagen
Konrad Adenauer said: 'Nobody can prevent me from growing wiser overnight.' Won't your customers see that a Skoda is really a VW?
Managing our brands is a process that must be steered and corrected all the time. There is no pricing in the whole group that does not have to pass my desk as group vice president. All product policy is steered very carefully and brand touching is monitored very closely - otherwise we would endanger our aim of selling more at a higher profit.
Isn't it difficult to win over brand directors - to resist their desire to have exactly the car that the higher-class brand is making?
What he wishes is one thing; what is possible is another.
Will Citroen follow the Renault dealer model?
Claude Satinet, president, Automobiles Citroen
Will you restructure your dealerships like Renault - with one main dealer per region and a network of sales and service points?
No, we are not going to do it like that. We are reducing the number of owners, but not the number of dealers. Unlike Renault we will not decide who has to buy whom.
Will you kick out dealers because they sell less?
We are not fixing figures but we expect the dealers to increase market share.
What direction will Citroen design take?
The C5 is exactly the new Citroen for me. Clean style, big inside by being a little higher than the other rival cars. And there is a lot of technology inside, a new suspension and electronics. It shows what I want to do with Citroen. It is a medium-range car, but we have to use the same philosophy for small and large cars.
Does that not become too costly?
Not with electronics. If you use electronics it gets cheaper every year. What you can afford this year in a medium car you can afford next year in a small car.
Why didn't you find a name for the C5?
This profusion of mostly artificial names without a meaning irritates customers. Even I can't remember some of the funny names. We are going back to the clear denomination of the size of the car. We will have a C6 in some appropriate time. C is Citroen and 5 is the size.
I want to have these simple combinations for the core cars and names for special cars, like the Picasso.
Will the Mini make money?
Helmut Panke, board member for finance and sales, BMW
How will BMW make the Mini profitable?
We have positioned it in the market so that the Mini Cooper will cost just under DM30,000 (E15,195). But it has to bring in a percentage on cost equal to any other car in our lineup. The profitability target is the same as for any other BMW. It also must have the same quality as our large BMWs.
During development we tried to have many suppliers on the continent.(BMW will build the Mini at its Oxford, England, plant). So the value of parts and labor in sterling is only about 40 percent of the total value of the car.
Your r&d expenses are borne by a relatively small number of cars. How do you cover expenses?
My father used to say that a fishmonger has to sell many herrings to earn as much as a jeweler does with one ring. Our quota for r&d on sales is marked by the fact that we sell very expensive cars.
How will Land Rover survive Ford's bean counters?
Marin A. Burela, director of manufacturing, Land Rover
Land Rover has been British, German and now it is American. How can you get good quality when you have all those changes of culture?
That is a tremendous question. Quality is a never-ending journey. You never quite get there. The moment you think you have it, that is the moment that you are in trouble.
We have to invest in our people and in our facilities. We announced that we will invest in excess of 130 million (E221.5 million) through 2001. And I just announced to the organization that we are going to teach them all the things they need to know about quality operating systems, ergonomics, maintenance, material flow - all the things that are material to maintain a good quality product.
How can you prevent bean counters from ruining your cars - such as evidently happened with the choice of small tire dimensions for the Ford Explorer?
Let let me tell you first that Ford is doing everything it can to fit Explorers as quickly as possible with new tires. It will be finished by November.
As a manufacturer you must have one basic understanding - what must your brand achieve. In our case it is simple: a Land Rover must be effective, adventurous, and have guts. Nothing can get in the way of your product. The cost we are taking out is waste.
Will Chrysler get a new look?
Thomas R. Marinelli, vice president Chrysler/Jeep Division Global Brand Center
Will you freshen your design now that design director Tom Gale is leaving?
We already have a reputation for design breakthrough. The PT Cruiser works so well in Europe because it is an emotional design. It is a very practical vehicle with the right powertrains for Europe, too.
When you see the new Jeep next spring you will say that it is quite a radical design. We will show it at the Detroit auto show in January. I think we have some things up our sleeves that will shock and delight people in the next few years.
How can Porsche be ultra-modern?
Harm M. Lagaay, director of styling, Porsche
When one sees the Carrera GT one knows it's a Porsche - though it is ultra modern. What's the secret?
I let myself be inspired by the famous 917 Porsche. The shape and also the lights stem from it, although everything has been modernized and the headlamps really are the latest in xenon dual lights.
When you designed the car what kind of customers did you see buying it - if it will ever be made?
It's 1,000 people able to pay E350,000 for a car. The Ferraristi are very loyal to their brand so Porsche has to have something extra special to lure them. We want about 250 sales a year. But the air is thin in those heights.
Why does Renault like to shock?
Remi Deconinck, senior corporate vice president of product planning, Renault
The Avantime shocks some people at first sight. Why did you do it?
When we did clinics for it we got a lot of positive response from people who drove high-line cars, coupes or other types of cars that are not standard-shaped. They are ready for something new, something original.
There is a deep relationship between the name of Renault and the fact that Renault is the one and only car manufacturer that can put this type of car on the market.
Do you believe in clinics?
No, I don't. I would leave my job if I had to rely on clinics. But I believe in clinics when we are targeting certain people. For example we did clinics for the Twingo. Eighty percent of the people said they hated the car, 20 percent were in love with it.
How do you decide on a product?
The president of Renault does not like to make a decision if there only is one proposal. He likes to choose. We really are free to suggest various, completely different solutions.
Why doesn't BMW like direct injection?
Burkhard Goeschel, vice president for r&d, BMW
Why don't you go in for direct injection like other companies?
Gasoline direct injection produces a lot of NOx (nitrogen dioxide), which has to be treated in a very complicated catalyst. But that is ruined when it comes into contact with sulfur. So you need sulfur-free gasoline, which is not generally available.
That's why BMW has gone a different way. We do away with the throttle flap that regulates the air flow into the engine and with that the engine speed. Instead we regulate the amount of air coming into the engine by changing the opening and closing of the intake valves. This saves about the same amount of gasoline as direct injection without the need for any major change in the engine or the treatment of emissions, and without the need for special gasoline.
Our system is called Valvetronic and we will have it on all our gasoline engines in due course. We are now researching if it is possible to combine Valvetronic with direct-injection lean-burn systems to produce an economically viable system.
Will Bob Hendry go?
Michael Burns, president, General Motors Europe
Will Robert Hendry step down as Opel's chief?
No, everything will stay as it is. Bob is doing an excellent job. And he is doing the job very well every day. We don't comment on speculation. His contract still goes for a number of years and I am sure he will stay the whole length of it.
Will you hire former BMW production boss, Carl-Peter Forster?
Again, no comment on speculation. I don't want to go down that road. There are a lot of excellent auto executives in Europe. He is one of them for sure.
Are big dealers beautiful?
Thierry Dombreval, senior vice president for strategy and marketing, Renault
Are big dealerships with a lot of managers really less costly than a dealership run by a family?
Big is not necessarily beautiful. Size is a condition for cost effectiveness. But clearly efficient management is the key. A large dealership that is poorly managed is bound to disappear.