DETROIT -- The waffles were offered for breakfast. The filet mignon was served at lunch. And small hamburgers and shrimp appetizers delivered for dinner.
And who was the chef in Detroit? Who kept the fire burning on a series of frigid nights in the Motor City?
Not the Detroit 3, but the German 4. The 2009 North American International Auto Show lived and breathed and thrived as if it were a Frankfurt preview.
The Europeans rediscovered America last week in the face of the largest economic and automotive downturn in recent memory.
Some of the exhibits shown by the Detroit companies were smaller than our dealerships in America, an Audi executive told me at an event in downtown Detroit where the Volkswagen group brought the automotive world together. A day earlier it was Mercedes-Benz that held an exclusive event to reveal the E class before the Detroit show had even started.
Where the Americans went for carpet and cars (massive exhibits were swapped for pure product), the Europeans went for showbiz reveals, increased sales announcements and impressive numbers.
If Detroit proved anything it was that America remains the place to play for Europeans. And they played it big.
Mercedes showed a commitment to alternative fuels. Audi said it was increasing its marketing dollars amid a marketing collapse. BMW showed style and Mini displayed pizzazz. VW revealed a stunning roadster. Between them, the Germans saved the show.
So why would Europeans care so much about Detroit? Because the US market will bounce back, maybe even by end of year.
Whether it is the Obama effect or the fact that a US Congressional bailout will mean the Detroit 3 (or Detroit 2 come end of 09) are still operational, the Europeans believe that pulling out of the US here means they are conceding everything.
The Europeans saved the show because they know the US will be saved and that their success depends on an American rebound.
They proved that the worlds most important market cant be abandoned -- that in times like these you cant wait for the problem to fix itself. You have to show you can fix it, and that you have the solution.
These days the Europeans are serving, and they hope more Americans will be interested in whats on their menu.