What's Japanese for Schadenfreude?

Paul McVeigh is Managing Editor of Automotive News Europe.
The Germans have a word for taking pleasure in others' misfortune – Schadenfreude. But at the Geneva auto show German auto executives were careful to avoid any mention of it when talking about rival Toyota.

When asked if Toyota's safety recall issues would lead to Mercedes-Benz and BMW trying to grab sales from luxury rival Lexus in the United States, both carmakers showed no enthusiasm for such a move.

Ian Robertson, BMW's sales and marketing chief, said: “I will not, and I mean that seriously. It's not what we do.” Robertson said Toyota will recover from the recall crisis. "At the end of the day they are still a good company."

Joachim Schmidt, Mercedes head of sales and marketing, said: "That's not the way we do business."

Schadenfreude would be dangerous for Mercedes. Four years ago the brand's image was badly hurt by a global recall of 680,000 Mercedes-Benz cars equipped with a brake-by-wire system it touted as revolutionary.

Even Toyota's rivals in the mass market are not enjoying the Japanese carmaker's misfortune.

Opel/Vauxhall marketing chief Alain Visser said: "I'm sure that the Toyota team are seeing some customers disappearing and I am sure that some of these customers go to other brands including ourselves. But we have no data to show that we are capturing more Toyota customers than before."

He added: "We think it's a very serious issue and you can only hope that it never happens to you."