Sergio Marchionne’s biting criticism of the industry’s economic inefficiency will provide a contrarian undercurrent during this week’s Frankfurt auto show press days.
Frankfurt will have the normal auto show glitz -- pounding music, celebrity cameos, sparkling new cars -- and the monumental buildings that German automakers construct to mark their turf.
But it will be hard to ignore the just-look-at-the-damn-numbers viewpoint that the Fiat Chrysler CEO enunciated this summer.
In his interview with Automotive News last month, Marchionne drew a pungent contrast to the glammed-up way the industry presents itself at auto shows: “Look, I would say nothing if we all sat back and we had been star performers in our industry and we smell like roses. But we smell like manure.
“We just happen to dress up a couple times a year to go to car shows and really shine up the damn thing, and then we come out and we say, ‘Ta-da!’ And people clap and they go, ‘Oh, isn’t that a wonderful car?’ Then you go back … you run the numbers and you realize that you never, ever make any real money. Ever. Right?”
That’s not entirely fair.
Despite the seeming frivolity, the people who stage auto shows know that the public days -- which journalists often overlook -- draw in hordes of people to check out cars.
In a way, a major auto show is like a giant dealership showroom that attracts hundreds of thousands of ups in the space of a week or so.
But there are hard financial realities just beneath the glitter. No doubt Marchionne will continue to point them out.