Is it blissful ignorance, whistling past the graveyard or willful self-deception?
There must be some explanation for the lack of concern, the serenity even, with which German automakers and suppliers view the looming economic crisis in the United States.
It should be clear to all executives involved in the United States that their lofty sales goals border on the nonsensical.
Not just the U.S. real estate market has collapsed; with it, we are seeing the unraveling of the "Buy now, pay later" fantasy that has turned U.S. consumers into the most indebted people in the world.
Yes, fear is stalking the American consumer.
Unlike the country's last recession in 2001, when consumers cheerfully kept on consuming, we can expect a greater reluctance to make purchases this time around because of the lending crisis.
But at the Detroit auto show this month, executives for BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen were still voicing their projections that the United States could continue absorbing more of their cars each year than in the previous year.
That is yesterday's equation. For the foreseeable future, the sales trajectory will flatten or even turn down. America's economic crisis this time is not likely to bypass the upper classes, those ready buyers of premium German cars, even if they're usually more independent of economic cycles.
As usual, the middle class will be hit hard. Do German executives need to be reminded that the middle class provides the lion's share of demand for VW in the United States as well as the lower-priced models from Mercedes-Benz and BMW?
No, there's no longer much doubt that a U.S. recession is on the way.
Only one question needs clearing up. Will German automakers be shielded from its impact by their specialization in premium vehicles?
They seem to think so. Cash-strapped and/or unemployed Americans might think otherwise.
Guido Reinking is editor of Automobilwoche