Sales in the United States are going strong with projections of over 15 million units to be sold in 2013 by both J.D. Power and Polk. But Europe is struggling. We have heard that Spain and Italy are in trouble, that Russia has lost it’s footing, but now automobile executives are openly talking about Germany going into a recession. Is that a reality? Steve Girsky thinks it could be.

GM Vice Chairman, interim President of GM Europe and Chairman of the Opel Supervisory Board talked to Lou Ann Hammond, CEO, www.drivingthenation.com, talked to Girsky at the Corvette unveil the night before the opening of the Detroit auto show. When asked about Europe Girsky gave a report card of each of the countries; the march in Germany is slowing down, France, Spain and Italy have not found a bottom yet, Russia is slowing down, UK is looking a little better.

When Girsky was asked if Germany is going into a recession? Girsky was concerned, “It’s close, borderline. The car market is sloppy, the retail buyer has sort of stepped away for awhile. There are incremental challenge to meeting plans, shortened work weeks could help in short term only, but the demand will get weaker in 2013 as sales will be down versus 2012″.

Germany going into recession? I had to follow-up, to see if what the other car executives thought. The other executives were within a decibel point of Girsky. Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, said he didn’t think so, but predicted that Europe would be “3% down in 2013, compared to 2012 when the market went down 8%.” Ghosn did acknowledge that “the German car market won’t be good if the rest of the European market is down”.

I ran into Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne and asked him about Germany going into a recession. Marchionne could see it happen. As the chairman of ACEA, the European automakers’ lobby group, Marchionne has called for consolidation of the European automobile industry and a contraction in production capacity across the board. I asked Marchionne if there has been any movement in reducing the over capacity in Europe. He said no.

Batchelor asked Brown about Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, known as the Big three.

We then talked about Continental’s autonomous vehicle plans for the future.


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