Flying long haul always gives one time to reflect and think about things, and I write this column while traveling to manage one of our shows in Chennai, India, (Automotive Testing Expo, the vehicle and engine development and test show that also takes place in Stuttgart, Detroit, Shanghai and Seoul), and I do so with less than two months to go until my 40th birthday.
Regrets? Well, I wish I’d met my wife earlier (although with her being 10 years younger than me, perhaps I don’t!) and I absolutely wish I’d had my kids earlier – no one told me how much fun they can be. I also wish I’d not been so polite and eaten that clearly undercooked piece of chicken my wife dished up eight years ago! But I’m delighted to report that, four hours into this flight, those are the only regrets I have.
Imagine, then, how the man at BMW feels who told me back in 1997 that hybrid powertrains were pointless and that BMW would never invest in them when it comes to development and production, Or how the then PR officer at Mitsubishi told me that I hadn’t understood gasoline direct-injection technology when I questioned if it really would demonstrate noticeable fuel-saving benefits in the real world. (The same man also lost his temper with me when I drove a Mitsubishi Charisma with said GDI engine from London to Geneva, recording fuel economy of just 21mpg. Okay, I’ll admit to driving faster than I should have, but the theory that I had “not been driving it correctly – it needs a special technique” was, of course, complete nonsense!)
On the subject of that very same GDI engine, I’m glad I wasn’t part of the Volvo PR communications team that issued a press release stating that the Swedish OEM’s engineering group had “extensively modified” the aforementioned Mitsubishi unit for installation in its then-new S40 model. Being editor of Engine Technology International at the time, I asked a Volvo press officer for a breakdown of these engineering modifications. Days passed and messages were ignored until I finally got a phone call in which he sheepishly admitted that the modifications in question meant the Mitsubishi badge on the cam cover was changed for – yes, you’ve guessed it – a Volvo badge!
And what of Daimler? We’ll ignore that American adventure with Chrysler, but what of its so-called pioneering fuel-cell program? The board must surely still wince at its claim that it would have a production fuel-cell car on the road by 2000. And then it was 2005. And then 2010. And then Not surprisingly the company appears to have gone somewhat quiet on the fuel cell front, perhaps leaving Honda (and a few others) to feel the shame as it currently insists on pursuing this pointless technology for production.
But the man who must surely have the most regret – in his professional life at least – was the then-president of a Japanese company that shall remain nameless. Away from the guarding PRs, and perhaps with a little bit of naughty journalistic manipulation from me, I got the poor man to say, “I hate diesel” at the launch of the company’s first-ever diesel powertrain! I put those exact words on the cover of this magazine. So, the next time you fly long haul and think back at what you have and have not done, be sure you have nothing to regret!