The Winterkorn episode
For automotive readers, Ahrens’ perhaps most favorite anecdote in the book recalls former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn’s controversial visit with his corporate entourage to the Hyundai booth at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show. During the visit, Winterkorn sat in the Hyundai i30 hatchback and took the wheel, angrily asking how Hyundai developed a steering wheel adjustment lever without a rattle.
“BMW can’t do it, we can’t do it,” Winterkorn said to his chief designer in front of a rolling camera.
The resulting video went viral and has 2,040,302 views on YouTube as of Nov. 30.
Ahrens wrote: “What unfolded was beyond anything anyone could ever have hoped for or thought up -- no guerilla marketing team would have chanced it -- and it probably sent beautifully engineered office chairs flying from windows of VW’s Wolfsburg headquarters the next day as the YouTube numbers kept piling up.”
He only wished he could take credit for the event “because it would have been a career maker,” Ahrens wrote.
Even after his global exploits at Hyundai, it’s clear Ahrens still has plenty of love and loyalty for his native West Virginia. He noted how his alma mater, WVU, played a key role in exposing the VW emissions cheating scandal -- which cost Winterkorn his job last year.
Seoul Man was published by HarperCollins in New York and can be ordered online at Amazon.com.