My perspective on the SAE World Congress in Detroit

Last week Heidi and I went to the SAE World Congress in Detroit. Networking, exploring the news from the automotive front and a meeting with a prospect were on our agenda.

It was quite interesting to see that the SAE was about 30 % smaller than in previous years. Our conversations with people at the booths led us to believe that there were also way less potential clients. On the contrary, we saw a lot of people who dropped off their resumes.
Unfortunately, we did not get to see my fellow countryman Arnold Schwarzenegger who opened the SAE with a keynote speech on Monday. The people we asked about him had only good things to say and all of them were pleasantly surprised at how well prepared and informed he was.

For me it was quite interesting to see the different approaches the automakers take. At GM, there were a lot of marketing people around but they seemed more interested in talking to each other than to the visitors at their booth.

At Ford, they had some really good cars – for small cars, the new Ford Fiesta with the new blue colour for 2010 looked great – but they failed to leave the car doors open so that visitors could experience the “indoor feeling”. There was only one marketing guy who was either on the phone or working on his laptop, not even bothering to look up. What a great impression he made on me! Maybe it was also because I am a woman and therefore he did not see the need to answer my questions. I had flashbacks to my car shopping experiences.

Nissan had the most appealing transmission showpiece with different colours to attract curious visitors. The marketing and sales people there approached me immediately in a very friendly manner to promote Nissan and they answered all the questions I had.
However, my personal favourite was Honda. It is not surprising for me to see WHY the Japanese are so far ahead of their North American competitiors. It’s their attitude and their indisputable ability to be innovative and creative.

These two guys walked around with a Honda walking assist devise. These are basically supplemental robot legs for humans who have difficulties walking.

They told me that Honda does EVERYTHING that has to do with mobility. Both of them visited the US from Japan and their English was not the best but…… their friendliness and their willingness to answer any question visitors would have, could not have been overlooked by anybody.
Honda had approximately 10 people at their booth, all very friendly, everyone smiling but the smart thing was that although they paid for their booth, these two guys promoted Honda with this unique walking device throughout Cobo Hall.

Hmmm, do you think there may be one or two things we could learn from them?

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