November marked the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the reunification of East Germany and West Germany. It was not only a milestone in history but also a momentous time for the auto industry.
In 1989, Victor Dial, an American and a former Ford executive, was based in Paris as Peugeot's top sales and marketing official. This is his personal recollection of that extraordinary time.
In November 1989 I was in charge of sales and marketing for Automobiles Peugeot in Paris. (One of my other titles was Geschaftsfuehrer, Peugeot Deutschland, a title I wasn't sure I liked.)
Soon after I had joined Peugeot from Ford in 1981, we had embarked on a concerted push to improve our position in West Germany, the biggest and most competitive market in Europe.
East Germany was open only to manufacturers that produced vehicles there: essentially one manufacturer producing an outmoded, unreliable, poor-quality, two-stroke, mostly fiberglass car called the Trabant.
Virtually the only imports were luxurious Mercedes and outmoded Russian limousines for top government officials.
The Trabi was priced astronomically, at something like three to five years of salary for the average worker; and even if you had the money, there was a waiting list of up to 15 years. Yes, that's right, 15 years.