No gloom in Traverse City

Debt ceilings. Demanding fuel economy standards. And stock markets ablaze with red figures after lower-than-expected data on the manufacturing sector.

But gloom in Traverse City? Hardly.

Better-than-expected turnout during the first two days of the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars - attendance is up about 150 delegates from last year - was indicative of the upbeat mood and extensive plans for an industry expansion. At least in some segments.

Honeywell Vice President Steve McKinley talked about rapid turbo growth, and possibly diesel growth, in the near term. OnStar announced it will expand globally, branching out in China, the Middle East and Latin America. And Volkswagen's Chattanooga operations boss, Don Jackson, pondered a future filled with more Passat production at VW's U.S. assembly plant, less than four months after Job 1.

Positive. Positive. Positive.

It was an interesting juxtaposition, given the threats of a stalling economy - including news Tuesday that U.S. auto sales remained largely flat - and toughening standards on fuel economy that was all the buzz early this week.

Privately, several supplier executives still say they are holding back on adding fixed costs, delaying full-time hires until they are certain the good times are back for good.

Publicly, it's all growth.

2009 it is not.

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