For everyone connected with the automobile business, whether in engineering, design, manufacturing or retailing, hope springs eternal.
During press days at the Geneva motor show, everyone seemed to be commenting that we have seen the worst of our economic challenges and everything will turn up roses from now on.
It doesn't matter that the economic data aren't showing that much of an increase. Sometimes automobile executives seem to be related to politicians. There are global politicians who still deny that there ever was an economic crisis and who are convinced that everything is fine.
There are too many automobile executives who think that whatever happened is over and that things will get back to normal now.
The automobile industry has just gone through the worst 18 months of its existence. It will take several years for things to get better, especially in North America.
We have seen a complete change in the complexion of the North American manufacturing and retail business, and it's permanent. Whatever happens from now on will be with new parameters.
We're looking at a different way of doing business for manufacturers such as General Motors, Chrysler and Toyota -- which had nothing to do with the financial crisis -- and for dealers.
The U.S. automobile industry has not recovered. There are far too many empty dealerships across the county, and employment in the industry is still far lower than it was just a few years ago.
U.S. car and truck sales are substantially lower than the nearly 17 million-unit level that had become almost routine. It will be several years before the industry sees that kind of market again, if ever.
It's a different business with different companies doing business. It has been a watershed period; the new normal will become what we have. It will be impossible to look for any sort of serenity.
But this is still the most exciting business in the world, and luckily most of the players are optimists.
If they weren't, they would have disappeared long ago.