Sure, it seems like the auto industry has stopped tumbling down the Slopes of Despair, and is somewhere between “about to start” and “just started” on the road to recovery.
But after a year like 2009, you (like the rest of us) might prefer some certainty, just a tiny scrap of information on the exact status of that recovery. Alas, measurements lag. In three months, economists will have all kinds of data about this moment, but right now … kinda hazy.
So, when certified data is lacking use your personal barometer.
Mine is starting to twitch upward a bit.
Friends and family members report General Motors and Chrysler are rehiring dozens of engineers and product-developing types. Ford is making at least some replacement hires.
And that really ghastly home-resale market around Detroit? At least within 10 miles of Chrysler headquarters north of Detroit, prices have stopped falling and homes are actually selling.
Yeah, yeah, pretty thin. But what about the most scientific aspect of my barometer? Detroit freeway congestion. Filtering out variables like weather, events and accidents, my daily commute is up 4-5 minutes -- just since Jan. 1.
Based on that I can firmly, categorically state this: the U.S. auto industry recovery started in January. Probably.
It ain't science. Your barometer may read differently. But if I'm right, remember you heard it here first.