In Geneva, frowns behind the smiles
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
This week the automotive world converges on Geneva for a couple of days to reveal new models for European consumers and in some cases the world. Executives also will talk about their businesses.
During press days, all the executives will have on happy faces and be filled with optimistic forecasts for their companies and their brands.
Don't believe it.
Things are not going well in Europe. Business is being forecast way down, and most automakers are concerned about the potential drain on their European companies.
Just about everybody looks to the North American market and China to keep them afloat while Europe recovers. No one believes Europe will recover soon. It won't be just a few months. It will be years.
Meanwhile, the beat goes on. Regardless of the economic environment, the car business continues in Europe. Companies struggle for survival and fight for every single sale. With sales sliding, it becomes ever tougher to get the European business on a solid footing.
If you want to survive and prosper, you need new models. Competition isn't getting easier; it's getting tougher, which means new models and continual investments are critical.
There will be plenty of new models revealed this week. In spite of the bad sales and worse forecasts, there are new products being shown by companies that hope for a spike in retail deliveries.
Meanwhile, governments have not let up on any of the emissions or fuel economy issues that require considerable investments by automobile manufacturers to solve the CO2 challenges and eventual cost to consumers.
The annual Geneva auto show is always interesting. It is in a country with no auto assembly plants, so, like the Swiss government, the show is neutral without any company or country able to dominate it.
Auto executives from all over the world will be there spouting optimistic predictions with smiles on their faces. But, sadly, except for a few select brands, Europe is a bleak place to make and sell cars.
The European economy is a shambles, yet we'll see lots of exciting new models and hear lots of announcements of good news.
Beneath the smiles, there will be plenty of frowns. But that's the way the car business has been for a century. It's not changing now.
You can reach Keith Crain at email@example.com.