EDWARD LAPHAM

Be it metal or men, Geneva all about style

Edward Lapham is the executive editor of Automotive News.
It's all about style at the Geneva auto show.

Style defines the best products and concept vehicles on the stands. It's also a defining attribute for the executives you see on the show floor. Some wander the aisles in pairs, occasionally with topcoats draped over their shoulders. Some stroll with a spouse or really close friend. Others march through the show with a posse.

But style is especially apparent among the execs who emcee the unveilings and press conferences.

Sometimes it's the company CEO who does the honors. Or it might be the head of the local sales operation. If there is a protocol or code to determine who gets the nod, I haven't cracked it.

Even if there is entertainment as a warm-up act, the press conferences tend to be straightforward. The executives make a few remarks, then unveil the vehicles. Formats don't vary much. In Geneva, most press conferences are allotted only 15 minutes.

But personal styles do vary.

For example, Toshihiro Suzuki, board member and global marketing honcho for Suzuki Motor Corp., was escorted to the microphone by two female dancers — a blonde and a brunette.

James Muir, CEO of Mazda Motor Europe, had a casual style. He walked himself out on stage wearing a sport coat, sans tie. It was a bit unusual for a CEO at a European show.

At Mercedes-Benz, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche was chauffeured onto the stage in a replica of the first automobile, driven by the great-granddaughter of inventor Carl Benz.

Right afterward, on the Chrysler stand, Chrysler LLC co-President Jim Press ran the show. But before he went on stage, Press stopped to say hello to folks he knew at the front of the crowd, which was much smaller than the mob at Mercedes-Benz. Zetsche walked over and sat in the front row.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday, I ran into Press standing in the aisle, thanking people for stopping by the Chrysler stand.

Not many execs have that kind of style.

You can reach Edward Lapham at elapham@crain.com

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