GENEVA -- Back in Detroit, they can't stop talking about Mercedes-Benz's decision to skip the auto show next January, vacating its pride-of-place and always spectacular stand at a key entrance to the Cobo Hall show floor.
But even stranger for me was walking into the Palexpo this morning and not seeing Opel at its accustomed spot at the top of the escalator to the second level, just above the main entrance -- a similar sort of position, impactwise, as Mercedes has occupied in Detroit.
General Motors' European brand had held that choice location ever since I can remember, and I can remember back to 1987.
That year I stood chatting with GM Europe head Jack Smith out among the Opels on display when Smith's boss, GM International chief Bob Stempel, suddenly appeared and, rather rudely I felt, yanked his man away for an important meeting. The two titans then stood next to an Opel Omega and held an animated discussion about a subject I could only guess at.
Indeed, there was always action of one kind or another on the Opel stand in Geneva.
In 1990, Lou Hughes ran the German carmaker and was in the process of out-maneuvering Volkswagen in East Germany following the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Throngs of us hung around the Opel stand that year stand to learn the latest. It was history in the making, and not just automotive history.
Two years later, Stempel, by then GM's CEO, was openly agonizing in Geneva about the impact the then-raging Gulf War was having on business. By the 1993 show, Jack Smith had replaced his former boss as CEO and was being congratulated and well-wished on the Opel stand by his former employees in Europe, who loved Jack dearly.
Opel was where you went to see and be seen in Geneva. In that era, Rick Wagoner, the lanky, relaxed young GM Europe finance head, would chit-chat with anyone and everyone on the stand. (Not so in 2009).
Bob Eaton, who replaced Smith at GM Europe, would hold court with reporters out on the floor.
Bob Lutz began his career at Opel and in 2002 positively rock-starred on the stand following his return to GM.
Up at Opel, you were at the crossroads of the Palexpo and felt like you were at the crossroads of the industry, right up through last year, when the sale to PSA was announced during the show. For one last time, the Opel stand was the place to be.
Now the space is occupied by Aston Martin, Dacia and W Motors' Ioniq brand, but all I can see are the ghosts of Genevas past.