Will panic in Europe cross the Atlantic?

Jason Stein is editor of Automotive NewsJason Stein is editor of Automotive News
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Don't look now, but a wet blanket could be draped over the North American recovery and the auto industry.

After spending the last week with European suppliers, automakers and some journalists, there is a sense that the famous double-dip is headed to the United States. The double economic dip.

What's the evidence?

Look no further than Greece, Spain, the UK and all of the nearly bankrupt 'new EU' nations that are about to be added to the mix next year.

The euro is taking a beating. Car sales are slumping in the post-scrappage world and people are getting nervous.

The best case is the shops in inflation-nervous Germany that will no longer take 100 euro notes. Why? They think that the EU, in combination with the Greek government, is printing money by the wagon-full to solve the debt crisis.

Banks are tightening lending policies. And governments are unstable.

Yes, Europe was late to get into the recession; it will be late to come out.

But there are troubling signs when trust is so shaken.

This time the world is watching every move. What happens in Europe will touch banks in Ohio and California, and that will affect optimism.

Some estimate that European banks have really only reported one-third of the really bad loans on their books.

Where will it go? No one's sure.

But as a friend told me this week, Henry Ford once believed it was better that the average consumer didn't know what was really happening inside banks.

Old Henry might've been right.

You can reach Jason Stein at jstein@crain.com. -- Follow Jason on Twitter

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