Someone said it started in Detroit. The North American International Auto Show last month had a tangible optimism.
It continued through the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco. Executives -- from retailers to manufacturers -- said this will be a much better year.
No one was silly enough to expect business to be the way it was just a few short years ago, but almost everyone predicted that U.S. sales this year will be between 12.5 million and 13 million units. That's solid progress, and everyone enjoyed the optimism.
People aren't going off the deep end and predicting they'll make thousands of hires; it's not that kind of optimism. We all have gone through our own challenges the past couple of years, and it will be a long time before we have unbounded enthusiasm.
This optimism is balanced with the determination not to get into the same sort of mess we faced a couple of years ago.
The automobile companies are cautious not to crank up production to unrealistic levels, and dealers won't let anyone dump excess inventory on their lots.
There has been a lot of painful experience over the past few years -- experience that came with blood, sweat and tears. That kind of wretched excess won't happen again any time soon, we all hope.
Heck, even General Motors seems interested in adding a few dealers. That's a great sign that there is a real chance for more car sales.
Interestingly, there wasn't much talk in San Francisco about new franchise opportunities in places such as China.
It's always great to leave an NADA convention with lots of optimism. The past few years were pretty bleak, but now dealers are investing in their own dealerships. Just about everyone believes that this year is going to be substantially better.
All in all, it was a terrific convention. Let's hope this buzz that started in Detroit keeps going at the Chicago Auto Show and later in Geneva and New York.
It's time for a little optimism. It's time for the buzz to stay.