There are not many European automotive CEOs at their headquarters this week because most of them are at the Tokyo auto show, providing a very positive sign for an event that had been in serious decline.
The global financial crisis, Japan's 2011 natural disasters and the growing power of China's auto shows in Beijing and Shanghai turned Tokyo's biannual event into a domestic show for about six years.
Prior to that, the show was a must-attend for European CEOs, who came to get a better understanding of key trends being developed by their Asian rivals.
Based on my count, CEOs from eight of Europe's top auto companies are came to Tokyo this week. Most of them were on stage to promote their brands on Wednesday.
Citroen CEO Linda Jackson gave a solid presentation of the brand's new practical positioning, using the C4 Cactus to underline the shift. Smart CEO Annette Winkler introduced the new ForTwo and ForFour minicars with a level of energy and enthusiasm that even a young salesman could not match.
Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn led Nissan's presentation but not Renault's. Perhaps this was a matter of diplomacy as Nissan is considering plans to restructure its alliance with Renault after the French government increased its ownership stake in Renault in April.
DS Automobile CEO Yves Bonnefont gave a preview of the PSA/Peugeot-Citroen upscale brand's updated range, which he believes will have a wide appeal in Japan where French fashion is coveted.
Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth handled the press conferences for both of his British brands.
German automakers led all Europeans at the show with two significant world debuts: the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo concept and the Mini cabriolet. Mercedes had global design boss Gordon Wagener unveil the futuristic luxury minivan. Mini, meanwhile, had its two highest ranking execs on the floor: Peter Schwarzenbauer, who is the BMW board member in charge of Mini and Sebastian Mackensen, who is the small-car brand's senior vice president.
Arguably the biggest news generated by a German automaker came from Volkswagen brand CEO Herbert Diess. He made his first auto show appearance since the VW Group's Dieselgate scandal started. Diess, a former BMW head of r&d who started his new job in July, used half of his time on stage to apologize for VW's self-created crisis and to promise that something like this could never happen again.
Although Aston Martin didn’t have a stand at the show its CEO, Andy Palmer, who spent many years in Japan as a top executive with Nissan, made sure the supercar maker was present.