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In the end, it's the economy

Yes, GM has mostly pulled out of the NADA convention. And the Toyota recall crisis continues to wag tongues around the industry. Dealers here in Orlando will be buzzing about both.

That's the assessment of two well-known industry faces arriving in town this morning: Elena Ford and A.J. Wagner. But both expect talk to ultimately turn back to underlying concerns over the strength of the economic recovery.

"Business is still tight," Ford told me just after touching down at the airport.

It hasn't been helped by early February snow storms that crimped sales along the East Coast. Dealers still have to dig out much of their snow-covered inventory.

Wagner, a retired Ford Credit North America president who now describes himself as a freelancer, says the outlook for recovery seems even more somber than just a month ago. He cited uncertainty about international markets.

Such concern can only be reinforced by a visit to the shrunken show floor here. With missing vendors and some booths just a fraction of their past footprints, it's clear that the industry still has a long climb back.

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